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Young Voters Want Steak, Not Just Sizzle

November 09, 2002

As a 40-year-old returning student, I feel that Steven Hill and Rashad Robinson (Commentary, Nov. 5) came very close but, in the end, missed the mark as to why more young people do not vote. Young people I encounter do cite irrelevance as a contributor to not voting, but the core reason is more elemental: Politics, like commerce, has become more about marketing and spin than about accuracy and merit. Politicians are selling sizzle to an audience long aware that there is little or no actual steak.

If we want our young people to participate, then we'll have to acknowledge some bitter truths and implement some bitter pills: Capitalism (and I'm a conservative) has outstripped democracy; real campaign reform is long overdue. Advertising is not the same as information; candidate debates must be mandatory. Our two-party system has become a single, collusive Republicrat Party; integrate third parties into the political dialogue and media coverage.

It's my experience that young people are not lazy or apathetic. In fact, just the opposite: They are contemptuous of a system that loudly talks the talk but is no longer willing to sweat walking the walk of a real representative democracy.

Jay Spothelfer

Los Angeles

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One of the suggestions to improve voter turnout is to fine those who don't vote (letter, Nov. 5). While this is a good idea, I believe I have a much better plan. First, 75% of eligible people must be registered to vote. Second, 75% of the registered voters must actually show up at the polls. If either of these conditions is not met, then the election results become null and void. Every office that was up for grabs would remain empty until the next election, with incumbents being allowed only to finish out their terms.

If the selection of governor is not important enough to get people to vote, the obvious conclusion is that the people don't want or need a governor. Fine, let's give them what they want. The same thing holds true for bond measures and initiatives -- if a majority of the eligible population doesn't think it is important enough to vote for or against, it is by definition not important.

Jerry Parsons

Long Beach

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No wonder voting turnout is so low. This is the second year in a row that I have had to cast a provisional ballot because my registration materials were not recorded at my polling site. I showed up at 9 a.m. at the Rose Hills Recreation Center, where I cast a provisional vote last year despite having registered in plenty of time for that election.

This year it was no longer a polling place. "Try Huntington Elementary," staff there suggested. At Huntington Elementary, my address was not listed. Poll workers were helpful but couldn't read the precinct maps and sent me to a polling place on Collis Avenue. At Collis Avenue they told me that on my side of the street, we vote at Via Arbolada. Finally, at the Via Arbolada polling place, I was in the right spot. My name was not listed even though I sent my registration materials six months ago.

I'm sending in my registration again today. This will be the third time in two years that I have attempted to register at the same address. Throughout the two-hour odyssey, I had my 3-year-old daughter with me. Each time we left a polling site, she'd shout, "But I want to vote!" So did I.

Elizabeth Chin

Los Angeles

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Re "Nonvoters Express Disgust at Political System," Nov. 6: Maybe it is time to keep this type of story out of the paper. People who do not vote do not have a voice in our country. Why should the paper give them one? I am tired of cynics complaining about everything. The complaints count only when you vote. And I cannot help remembering how the people on United Airlines Flight 93, on Sept. 11, voted before taking action against their attackers. This is America and we vote here. We ignore those who do not vote.

Karen Nyhlen

Los Angeles

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