Politics. It’s such a dirty word among people right now. People don’t like politics; they try to avoid it as much as possible. It used to be that you could tune politics out; simply ignore it and pretend it doesn’t apply to you.
A new movement recently started here in Utah, the “Count My Vote” initiative. In brief, this movement aims to switch Utah’s current primary election system from a Caucus system (where chosen delegates cast votes in a primary election) to a direct vote primary (where every participant has a vote in the primary election). Many other states have a direct primary, so this is nothing new or groundbreaking. The timing of this initiative, however, is rather curious. Why now? Why has this not come up in the past? According to a study cited by Count My Vote on their website, Utah’s voting turnout in elections has dropped sharply from 76% to 39% in 2012, ranking the state #39 in voter turnout.
Usage of social media has increased exponentially over the past few years. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 72% of adults are social network users (see the full report here).
But what does this mean, and how does it relate to the Count My Vote movement?
One principle of social networking that always seems to keep reoccurring is the idea of one being their own personal gatekeeper to surround oneself with views affirming their own. This principle is highlighted extremely well in any political discussion you can see on Facebook, with at least two clear camps in opposition to each other duking it out through their keyboards. The end result? People can now feel like they have a voice; an opinion (albeit sometimes absurd). What happens now that people have all of these opinions and passions about current issues? They want to be the decision makers; the influencers. And that idea lies at the heart of the Count My Vote initiative. You don’t want someone else, who may or may not share your same viewpoint voting for the people who represent you. You want that vote, and ultimately that decision.
Obviously, the impact of this event has implications in a few different contexts. First (and most obviously) within the social context. Voting and primary system in Utah is something that has been happening in our society for a long time. With the way people
Culturally, this has been an interesting movement. Just because of its nature, being an petition-based movement it has a very grass-roots feel to it. Social networking has been incredibly important to it’s progress. I first heard about this movement through a blog post that was linked to on my friends Facebook wall. The discussion, according to my experience has mainly been happening online. There is discussion that happens face to face, but most of the time people will steer clear of any situation where it looks like someone is going to talk politics (like a group of people wanting signatures for a petition). Online, however you can say whatever you want, leave out any details you want and ignore anyone you want. This discussion that happens is very much a form of citizen journalism. Many people have heard of the movement from the news, but a whole lot more is being said by people outside of traditional news media through the blogs and Facebook/Twitter posts.
My view? I think this movement has some merit behind it. Reforming Utah’s system to a direct primary would definitely have many implications, but we wouldn’t be the first to do so. In our day and age, political candidates have much easier means to connect with people one on one, even if its not face to face. I can see the reasoning as to why we had delegates vote for us in the past; it would have been impossible for candidates to broadcast their message that far and wide. But today I can send a tweet to my state representatives and have a response back; I can look up their voting history online to see if I agree with their views. So much information is out there now that I feel confident enough I could make an educated, direct vote about who I want to represent me, instead of letting someone else do it for me. After all, if I’m going to post about who I want in office anyway on Facebook, it might as well count in real life too.