Voter Registration Alone is Not Enough

Chad Woerner, Staff Writer

As the midterm elections approach on Nov. 8, campaigning is starting to enter high gear nationwide. All 435 seats in the house and 35 of 100 senators will be up for reelection, and the outcomes could have tremendous consequences for the second half of President Joe Biden’s term. 

Also accelerating are the calls by politicians from both sides of the aisle to vote. From the “I voted” stickers to the frequent urges from candidates, our election process is noisy with calls to simply vote. In the days leading up to the 2020 presidential election, a tweet by Biden simply saying “vote” garnered more than 370,000 likes, and before the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton repeatedly sent similar messages on Twitter urging her supporters to vote. Before Ted Cruz was reelected as a Texas senator in 2018, he repeatedly pressured Texans to vote without urging them to first become familiarized with the candidates. 

It is true that these requests by politicians are often targeted toward constituents who are already supporters, but politicians are doing more naive voters a disservice by telling them to go vote instead of telling them that voters should of course be voting but also be educating themselves about the electoral process prior to the midterms. 

While we should all strive for higher voter registration, advocating to vote in and of itself is missing the larger point of any democratic election: to elect the candidates that the voter believes are the most qualified and prepared to serve their constituents. 

Merely urging others to vote will not achieve this goal. We must first stress the need to get voters familiar with the candidates on the ballot, particularly the lesser known positions. For example, while the average voter may be familiar with the responsibilities of their congressional representatives and senators, they may not have the same knowledge for positions within municipal government, school boards, public safety or even state congressional positions. 

Education is a part of this goal, but social studies and civics classes will not predict for us what views future candidates will support. While such courses can increase our political knowledge, they can not reliably keep voters informed on current events. Every voter should strive to know as much as possible about which policies are favored by the relevant candidates for their state, and they should come to the polling place with a pre-developed justification for their voting choices. 

Let’s Vote Nova, an initiative on campus, also focuses extensively on the notion of voter representative and less on the educative process of the different candidates. Its main goals are to encourage Villanova students to vote and to answer any administrative questions students may have about registration. Though Let’s Vote Nova may not have the resources to expand its program, it too falls into the trap of encouraging voters who may have uninformed opinions to show up to the polls. 

While swing states nationwide all have especially important elections, the races in Pennsylvania are particularly contentious, primarily the house seats up for grabs in the 1st, 7th, 8th and 17th congressional districts. This is all the more reason why voters should come to the poll not merely with a willingness to vote, but also an informed opinion on why they believe in their selections. A more educated populace ought to lead to more effective government.