I’m flattered that you quoted me without attribution today in your Chronicle column today–I did indeed email you (and the rest of the Duke Debate team) with information about voting logistics with the observation that you quoted:
“it will only take 20 minutes, we can get you a ride, it will be fun, you will get a sticker”
Your headline read “Voting isn’t important.” This is akin to saying “Going to class isn’t important.” Going to class is not the only part of academic engagement (going to class and then goofing off on facebook would be the academic equivalent to going to the polls without having an informed opinion), but you can’t be an academically engaged student if you don’t go to class.
You’re correct in saying that voting should always be accompanied by thoughtfully considering the races at hand and coming to an informed choice. This consideration is a part of the process of voting.
You cannot be a good citizen if you don’t vote–it is by that metric that voting is “important.” You have failed in a civic duty if you fail to vote in an election, and there is no way around that.
I would like to make one thing clear: I have never and would never advocate people going into a polling booth with a random number generator and picking out random candidates.
That having been said, coming to a conclusion about who to vote for in general elections is I think a much quicker project than many people think, if you’re already the sort of person (like many Duke students are) who has a good background in economics, reads the newspaper, and has spent a little bit of time thinking about their political values. Political parties are designed to give us a lot of information about the candidates we vote for, and, in both the NC General Assembly and in the United States Congress, very few congresspeople depart from the platform’s of their party. The most important quality in selecting members of Congress is that they cast votes that agree with the votes you would cast, and chances are, if you’re a Duke student, you already have a good sense of what those are.
We are ridiculously lucky to be getting one of the best educations in the world. We have a responsibility to help shape the future of our communities and our country. Democracy only works if everyone puts forth the effort to ensure that our government comes to good decisions. I suspect you feel the same way, as the State Board of Elections indicates that you did indeed go vote in the 2010 election. It was probably not for the sticker.