Blouch: Political negligence is selfish and invalid

Cat Blouch

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, around 138 million Americans voted, according to Penn State University Libraries. The 138 million make up 51.8% of the population eligible to vote, the site says. 

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Similarly, in local elections, I am continuously surprised by the lack of voter turnout.

The 15.33% voter turnout rate in the most recent Associated Students of Colorado State University election was greatly disappointing. Even when voting is as simple as logging onto RAMweb, people still don’t do it.

Inevitably, no vote is better than a vote stemming from misinformation. Therein lies the problem. The solution to ignorance is not simply taking yourself out of the equation; the solution is to instead become informed.

“Not being personally affected by a particular issue does not give you the right to be politically negligent, as it is your opinion that has consequences on the individuals that are affected. “

The dilemma here is the belief that one can simply remove themselves from the picture. It must be understood that political ignorance is, in and of itself, a political stance. This can best be understood through an event like the 2016 presidential election.

If everyone was able to receive concise and reliable information about the candidates, and they voted based on this knowledge, would Donald Trump be the president? It’s impossible to know for sure, but we must come to accept that the decision not to vote has just as much of an influence as the decision to do so. 

Voting must also be understood within the framework of what it means to participate within a community. For example, though cisgender men will not face the ethical dilemmas associated with women’s reproductive rights, they still get a vote toward propositions concerning abortion. 

Political negligence can be better realized when likened to the bystander effect, defined by Psychology Today as “the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation.”

When we think others will act, we are less likely to take up the responsibility ourselves, but it is this dereliction that many believe resulted in the death of Kitty Genovese in 1964

Though neighbors could hear Kitty Genovese being murdered outside her home, nobody stepped in, saying they “didn’t want to get involved.” This led psychologists to begin studying the bystander effect. In the same fashion, many opt to not vote when they believe that enough people will vote similarly to them. 

States that notoriously swing one way are great examples of this phenomenon. Many believe that it’s not necessary for them to vote in the direction of the state’s color if, for example, Oregon will always be blue. However, in cases of unprecedented political climates such as the current, a large voter turnout could result in a change of the norm for a particular state. 

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We have seen that negligence can literally be fatal on a micro level. On a macro level, it could be catastrophic. Keep in mind: Not being personally affected by a particular issue does not give you the right to be politically negligent, as it is your opinion that has consequences on the individuals that are affected. 

Cat Blouch can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @BlouchCat.