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If you don't vote, you don't count

With the Republican and Democratic National Conventions officially wrapped up, many political analysts refer to the next few weeks as the figurative “home stretch” of the presidential race. Less than two months remain until the Nov. 5 election, and most major polls show President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney either neck and neck with results comfortably within the margin of error, or with President Obama edging out Romney by only a few points.
So what does this mean for the average citizen? Our votes will count more than ever this fall.
But in an election year where the economy is still stuck in a sluggish recovery and unemployment is holding at uncomfortably high levels, it still shocks me how apathetic many college students are about exercising their right to vote.
After sending off my request for an absentee ballot this week, I found myself in a conversation with two friends on the topic of voter apathy. My friends — who have voiced their displeasure about President Obama’s administration several times before — actually laughed when they heard all of the hoops that I was jumping though in order to get an absentee ballot.
“That is exactly why I’m not voting,” one said. My other friend echoed his statement, adding, “It isn’t like my vote would matter anyway.”
I must agree with them on one point:  Absentee voting is a long and annoying process. For my home state of Missouri, after mailing in a request weeks in advance, a voter must wait up to two weeks for the paper ballot to arrive. Then after filling it out, the state requires that a notary certify the document before it can be sent back ... all before the deadline.
With so much on the average student’s plate, it is easy to push off voting until it is too late. That being said, is it really unreasonable to ask us to take the time to head to the polls once every four years?
Only about half (51 percent) of college-age voters actually cast a ballot in 2008, which was heralded as the second-highest turnout of our voting bloc in U.S. history. But for the age group with the most to lose — policies set today will affect us for much longer than they will our parents’ or grandparents’ generations — I don’t think it is irrational for me to say that I think that our voter turnout should be higher.
One of the most popular arguments in defense of voter apathy goes something like this: “It is my democratic right NOT to vote.” While this statement is certainly true, most Americans aren’t trying to make a political statement by boycotting the polls — they’re just lazy.
Taking half an hour to head to the polls on Election Day or sending in an absentee ballot is the easiest way to voice your opinion as a citizen of the United States. Our nation is based on this fundamental right. If we choose not to exercise it, is our country truly democratic?
If you are upset with the current administration, vote them out. If you think President Obama deserves another four years, vote to keep him in.
But if you don’t vote, you don’t count. It’s as simple as that.

Lexi Thoman is senior international studies and Spanish double-major from St. Louis, Mo.