Opinion: Political education and awareness are essential to vote in any election

Tamlynn Torchon

Graphic by Sam Chaney

The U.S. presidential election is perhaps the single most important event every four years, and reasonably so: the outcome can change the lives of everyone, whether they are U.S. citizens or not. Therefore, it makes sense that people care about this vote more than others.

Let’s make one thing clear: every election matters. It is a bit foolish or even dangerous to neglect some elections (in this case, local elections) because their impact is actually more severe than one might expect. Let’s examine the importance of political education and awareness, and how they ultimately lead to civic engagement in elections, especially in local ones.

Political education can be defined as researching and acquiring information about political topics for a better in-depth understanding. This education can be done alone and/or with the help of the usual entourage, whether it be family, friends, students, professors or staff members. It also includes watching various news sources, engaging in discussions, knowing the policies and values of candidates, understanding problems and their sources.

All of those elements combined create political awareness. One of the most tragic things known about many Americans is their political ignorance, whether it be about national or international affairs. This is rather confusing, considering the availability of information nowadays.

Of course, many will point out the existence of bias in information. First, one must make the distinction between news and opinions. Then, you can always find your own sources, as long as they don’t cultivate a news niche habit.

If you’d like to see the reality of what policies do, then step out of your comfort zone. It is always great to go to community meetings and hear about the struggles of different groups of people. Your input matters just like everyone else’s. When someone develops those qualities, then civic engagement becomes natural. This engagement is the beginning of the kind of true patriotism that this nation needs from every single one of its citizens.

Nowadays, it seems that people are afraid of politics because it seems divisive. However, the more someone indulges in politics, the bigger the appreciation grows. Instead of shutting information out, we should all take a step further to analyze politics so that we all become truly aware of things.

Even if you’re just a student here at UNF, civic engagement and political participation are much-needed. If you are truly concerned or passionate about a particular subject, you can always demonstrate it through participation. There is a student government in need of attention and help, and there are several clubs defending or promoting a variety of causes.

If you are of age to vote, remember to register. Do not take this democracy for granted, because someone will abuse it. There are several places in this world that don’t have the luxury of having an ounce of democracy. After you register to vote, inform yourself about the candidates, whether they be for running for mayor, senator, governor or another position.

When learning about your candidates, please keep in mind that whoever it is must not only care about his/her/their interests, but also about yours and the ones of your community. Voting is beautiful if it promises to help a great number of people. Familiarize yourself with candidates’ values, as well as their stances on economics, wages, tax distribution and many other issues.

How will those individuals impact your community in positive and lucrative ways? Ask yourself this question several times throughout the process because your vote truly matters not only for yourself, but also for everyone else.

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