Few presidential candidates waste their time courting the college vote. It's not just because we lack big bucks to donate to their campaigns; we simply don't go to the polls on election day. You might claim we don't have the time, or that we meant to but forgot, or it doesn't really matter anyway. Most people look at our historically abysmal turnout and just figure we're apathetic.
Just three weeks ago, less than 5,000 votes made the difference between Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley '65 in New Hampshire's Democratic primary. On Saturday, a record number of voters came out for the Republican primary in South Carolina, sweeping Texas Gov. George W. Bush past Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to the front of the GOP race once again. The campaign deluge is dead ahead: Super Tuesday is two weeks from today. On March 7, Republican and Democratic primaries will be held in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. In the following week, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Utah will join the list of election battlefields as candidates vie for votes all over the country — that's 19 states spread out over little more than a week.
You're entitled to not care. If it really makes no difference to you who's running this country, then yes, you might as well not vote. But if you have an opinion regarding abortion, gun control, education, health care or the death penalty, there's something at stake. Beyond the issues, each candidate presents a different personality, a distinct way of carrying himself and a unique style of representing our interests to Congress and the international community. You have an opportunity to make a real choice depending on what you believe and who you believe in.
Perhaps it's enough for you to believe that since we've been granted the right to vote, we owe it to ourselves, or to those less fortunate than us, to exercise that right. We're old enough to remember the images of South Africans lining up by the thousands to cast their votes for the first time in 1994. Not one of them took the privilege for granted. We've grown up expecting to always have that right — so why not use it?
As I said, there's two weeks before Super Tuesday. A majority of us will obviously not be home to vote — so we're just in time to request an absentee ballot. Applications for absentee voter ballots are due one week from today in Cali- fornia and New York, the biggest of the many influential, delegate-heavy states.
Go online. Find the Webpage of the Secretary of State of wherever you hail from. Print up an absentee voter ballot request form. Fill it out, be sure to sign it, then slap a stamp on it and drop it in the mailbox on your way back from class or heading to dinner. Take a deep breath — it'll have taken 10 minutes or so — and then have a nice meal. The ballot should get to you within the week. Read it, mark your vote, seal it up and put it back in the mailbox. How simple.
In recent decades and sometimes today, college campuses have been breeding grounds for political activism. If you have the time, you can spend every spare minute protesting injustice, or volunteering for a candidate, or firing off letters to every elected representative you can think of.
But this is the easiest way to make a difference with little effort on your part. If you have an opinion, make it count — cast your vote. Georgia Garthwaite is from Lagunitas, Calif. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.