Written by Sianna Boschetti
With the 2016 presidential election rapidly approaching, most people are preparing to head to the polls. Student Katie Wenzel ’17, however, stands apart from the mainstream population for her decision to abstain from voting.
“Sure, I’m politically active, but voting just isn’t that important to me,” said Wenzel. “We’ve got all these problems in our country – gender inequality, racial injustice, police brutality, economic distress – but it’s not going to go away just by me driving twenty minutes and checking a box at the poll.”
According to a 2014 Census report on voter demographics, voters from the ages of 18 to 24 consistently have the lowest turnout at the polls, with only 38% of young voters participating in the 2012 election. The decision to abstain is not unique to Wenzel; it’s a common trend among young voters.
Yet not having her voice heard in the upcoming elections does not seem to bother Wenzel as much as one would expect for a “politically active” citizen. She argues that change cannot be enacted by simply voting for the right candidate; change, she says, will take a lot more than a new Commander-in-Chief.
“The president isn’t nearly as huge of a role in American politics as people make them out to be,” she said. “There’s still, like, Congress and governors and mayors for bills to get through, too. Do we even elect them into office? Is that a thing?”
Her disinterest in voting, she claims, is not caused by a lack of political knowledge. “I consider myself extremely politically aware,” she said. “I listen to NPR.”
Several of Wenzel’s peers seem to share her sentiments. Some even praise her desire to avoid the polls this November.
Emma Lawton ’17 said, “She’s always been an independent thinker.”
“I can’t really blame her,” said Alice Karsten ’18. “I’m not a fan of any of the candidates, really, so I don’t care that much about who wins, either.”
“[Wenzel’s decision to abstain] is pretty admirable, I’d say,” stated Samuel Duprey ’18. “By not voting, she’s sticking it to the man in the most effective way possible. Nothing says, ‘I don’t approve of your system’ like not participating in the changing of the system to begin with.”
Tara Lefticone ’16, Wenzel’s roommate, feels differently. “She won’t stop talking about how ‘politically aware’ she is, but she also keeps bringing up how she won’t vote. It’s almost like she’s bragging about it or something,” Lefticone reported. “Also, I’m actually looking for a new place to live now, if anyone is looking to rent a room. I’m quiet. No pets. No allergies, if you do have pets. Oh, and unlike Katie, I’m voting, and I’m not constantly telling the story of that one time when some girl called me ‘an independent thinker’ for ignoring the polls.”
Despite her choice to abstain, Wenzel does claim to be politically active. She reportedly considered voting in the 2012 election and has engaged in many arguments with her parents over topics such as “the future of this country.”
“I’ve even been to political rallies before, and I love it,” she said. “Bernie Fest was a great time. They had music and vegan hot dogs.”
“Oh God, Katie and her ‘political awareness,’” Lefticone responded. “I have so many stories about that. One time, she turned on the TV and the news was on. She said ‘Ew’ and changed the channel to SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Wenzel claims to have faith that the rest of the population will make the right choice without her casting a ballot of her own. “I love this country, and even if I don’t vote, I’m sure that America won’t let me – or themselves – down.”
Again, Lefticone disagrees. “Now Katie has started saying she’ll move to Canada if Trump gets elected. She honestly thinks moving to another country is the easiest way to prevent changes she doesn’t want to see made to her own country,” Lefticone said. “She can’t even afford the large box of Bagel Bites at Target.”