Editorial: The duty of citizenship requires enlightened voting

Editorial Board

Our national philosophy informs us that our citizenship is a duty, and that it is a duty that must be done with virtue.

Being a citizen encompasses the acts comprising a state of self-governance. Webster’s states duty is “conduct based on … a sense of propriety,” and “any action … relating to one’s … position.” Propriety, then, is “the quality of being … suitable.” Furthermore, virtue is defined as “general moral excellence; right action and thinking.”

Accepting citizenship is a duty to be done with virtue, we can surmise citizenship entails action relating to governing ourselves, and we must be suitable to the task of self-governance by being an educated, competent, and morally and ethically sound people. When broken down this way, it’s clear citizenship is a heavy burden, requiring constant and energetic attention.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s recent analysis of the 2008 election says there was shy of 26 million American citizens aged 18 to 24 four years ago. Of this number, only 15 million were registered to vote, and only about 12.5 million actually voted. That means only 58 percent of Americans of typical college age registered to vote, and only 48 percent went the distance and stepped into the voting booth.

Recent Gallup polls suggest voter turn-out in the same general youth demographic is predicted to be lower than in 2008. This is not unusual for incumbent elections, and indeed, given the many anecdotal reports we’ve received from those involved in the national campaigns locally — namely that Democrats seem unorganized and cocksure, and Republicans are checked out and resigned to lose — we aren’t surprised by these polls.

No, it’s not surprising college students are less interested in the election this go around, but we’re still dismayed given all that’s at stake for students: from Pell Grants to student debt; from your health care to getting a job after graduation.

The Census Bureau’s 2008 election report also informs us that 77 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree and nearly 83 percent of those with a graduate degree pulled the handle or punched the buttons in the voting booth. Both these numbers greatly surpass the national average of 63.6 percent of citizens who voted.

Voting is one of the many duties of a citizen, and given the link between education, virtue and citizenship, it also isn’t surprising that those of us obtaining degrees are some of the most likely Americans to vote. Given the stakes this election and given that Politifact.com says Romney only tells the complete truth 17 percent of the time and Obama tells the complete truth but 23 percent of the time, it’s critical that you put your education to good use.

Learn. Register. Vote. Your civic duty demands it, Iowa State. Your country needs you.