Frank Broomell: With primaries close, participation is needed

When I got home for Thanksgiving break a few weeks ago it was Tuesday night, and there was already one station playing Christmas music around the clock. It certainly seems like every year Christmas season comes earlier and earlier. This year another season is coming earlier – election season.

Most people have already noticed this, and I apologize for being Captain Obvious. The steady stream of debates and stories about American flag pins, kindergarten essays and endorsements show us that we have been in election mode for a while now. This has sparked some good discussions at GW. Yet it is important to ensure that it does not remain only discussion.

History shows us that most young people are unlikely to vote. According to CNN, just seven million of the 50 million people between the ages of 18 and 29 cast a ballot in 2006. While many may not place much importance on the primaries, they decide who even has a chance at becoming our next president. John Kerry won the Democratic nomination last time around, but come November he lost to an increasingly unpopular president. How many Democratic voters in November of 2004 wished they had a different candidate post-election?

Registering to vote is easier than ever. The Student Association has set up a new Web site to assist students in finding out what is required for absentee voting at www.gwvotes.com. In 2004, GW Votes helped the majority of GW undergrads register to vote and aided 85 percent request absentee ballots. The excuse that the process is too complicated and confusing is no longer valid. There are resources available to help, and your vote can make a difference in a close election.

Both partie’s primary contests are as close as they have been all year. Anyone can still end up on the other side of Super Tuesday on Feb. 5 as the favorite to win their party’s nomination. As Americans, we are given a right to vote in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. This is our opportunity to participate.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is gaining on frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). In a Rasmussen poll released on Tuesday, Clinton dropped 6 percent in one week. Meanwhile, in the first in the nation primary of Iowa, Obama has reached a virtual tie with Clinton, alternating leads in the latest polls released from a variety of sources. Former Sen. John Edwards is not far behind in Iowa. Tuesday’s Rasmussen reported him at 24 percent, compared to Obama’s 25 percent and Hillary’s 27 percent. With just 3 percent separating Edwards and Hillary, he is within the margin of error.

In the same poll, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani saw his lead evaporate. He is now tied with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who recently picked up the endorsement of Chuck Norris. They are tied at 18 percent and have Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Fred Thompson and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney within six points. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is not far behind.

On Jan. 3 Iowa will hold its caucuses. New Hampshire follows just five days later, and the presidential contenders hope to be hitting their stride. Five more states will have their primaries, or caucus in the case of Nevada, in January. We are then hit with Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

On that day, 24 states will be having their primaries. These states make up half of the population of the United States and include New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. According to numbers by the GW’s Office of Institutional Research, when it comes to the student population at GW, these states rank first, second and fourth, respectively. All told, 57 percent of GW students from the U.S. live in a state holding some form of nominating contest on Super Tuesday. The majority of these are voting primaries, and nineteen of them are holding nominating contests for both the Democratic and Republican parties.

If you are not already registered to vote, go to your state’s election website or visit GW Votes to find out how you can register. Students from Iowa and New Hampshire will be able to vote before returning to school in the spring. Other students must get an absentee ballot so that they can vote while away from home.

Everyone likes to complain about what our leaders are doing wrong. We like to say who we think should be in charge. But too many young people do not find the time to vote and actually put their opinions into action. Unless you support a third party, there is no reason to abstain from voting in the upcoming primaries for the Democrats and Republicans. The races are close, and your vote will matter. The resources are available to easily acquire an absentee ballot.

It only takes a minute of your time to fill out your ballot. We go to the school in the center of our nation’s capital – I wrote this just five blocks from the White House. We need to make sure our discussions of politics go beyond just words.

The writer, a junior majoring in international affairs, in a Hatchet columnist.

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