Your Vote is Your Voice

by Ana Bonnheim | 11/4/02 6:00am

War with Iraq. North Korea's nukes. Suicide bombers in Israel and Bali. Hostages held in Moscow. Anti-American sentiment in Europe and the Middle East. Lately, foreign policy has been dominating newspaper headlines and dinner table conversations. We are thinking constantly about our role and our responsibility in the international community.

But we can't forget that it is tomorrow's elections -- particularly the congressional races -- that will create the foreign policy that will shape our future. The men and women that we are electing tomorrow will be our voices in the national struggle to determine America's role in global events of military, economic, technological and moral importance.

Mid-term elections are a funny thing. This isn't a presidential election year, but everyone is still talking about presidential primaries and re-election possibilities. There is a lot at stake in Tuesday's election that has little to do with the executive branch.

For the first time in decades, mid-term elections may change party control in two legislative branches. Total partisan control could have remarkable effects on the efficacy of President Bush's notions for the future of our country -- in policies ranging from Social Security to pollution emissions to foreign aid.

If the Republicans take both the House and Senate, then President Bush will start pushing more federal judgeship nominees through the appointment process -- simply because he can. Through the federal court system, a three-pronged Republican government will penetrate more than Washington politics and top-down federal policies. Furthermore, more radical Supreme Court nominations may be more easily approved through a partisan-controlled government.

Because the future of congressional leadership is so unclear, this election is a national one, even though the individual races are only statewide. The election is about a timeless constitutional issue: the issue of checks-and-balances, the foundation of our democracy.

If you think it's dangerous for one party to have so much control, then there's only one thing you can do about it. Vote.

For some reason, voting is not a great trend in the United States. According to the 2000 Census, only 42 percent of voters age 18 to 24 voted between 1972 and 2000. This is a distressing statistic and we should not accept it complacently. We know that government and politics affects us and our futures. Anyone who says Dartmouth students don't think about a world beyond Hanover is dead wrong.

Look at the pages of The Dartmouth and the other papers on campus, or at a blog site. Enrollment in classes in Middle Eastern history and culture has skyrocketed in the last year, as have classes geared towards helping students understand the current state of global affairs. On a daily basis, students attend discussions geared around current events through Rocky organizations and the Dickey Center. The Ethics Institute's debate on the ethics of war in Iraq was overflowing with students. Fifty students rallied against war in Iraq last weekend in the nation's capitol. We are consumed by thinking about the confusing and exciting world that we influence.

We need to remember that we, too, affect the political process. We have opinions -- some quite radical. The burden is on us to make them heard. Luckily, we live in a country that gives us that opportunity. We just need to take the few minutes to vote.

If you have already voted by absentee ballot in your home state, that's great. Dartmouth students hail from every state. Theoretically, we could be influencing every single congressional election. But if you're like most Dartmouth students, you missed the deadline or didn't even think about the possibility about voting in your home state.

You can still vote in New Hampshire, a state where the winner of the Senate election is still up for grabs. The difference in the polls has essentially remained within the poll's margin of error. Your vote can decide the election.

Because New Hampshire has same-day registration, you can show up and vote, even if you're not already a New Hampshire resident. In 2000, 1,700 people voted under same-day registration; over 1,000 of them were Dartmouth students. The Shaheen-Sununu race is likely to come down to a margin of a few hundred votes. The senate race could be determined by us!

Political analysts have been saying for months that the New Hampshire Senate election is one of a handful that will determine the control of the Senate. And if we as Dartmouth students play a significant role in who wins the Senate race, then we are poised to affect national politics in ways that could ripple for years.

We've got to get out there and vote.