During a time in which this nation appears to be mired in panic and fear over threats to our security, such as Ebola or ISIS, our confidence in Congress has shrunk to approximately 12 percent. Voter turnout is hitting all-time lows, and yet we still find ourselves expecting a different result each time they take place.

In the latest midterm election of 2010, only one quarter of all able-voters in the age group 18 to 29 cast their decisions. Midterm elections already have notoriously poor turnout rates, and yet, as we have seen through the Congressional stagnation in the past few months, if we don’t elect competent officials to lead us, we will consistently have poor results.

Due to the stringent party politics we have been seeing in the past few years, it has become increasingly difficult to get to know a candidate’s individual beliefs and ideas without doing a significant amount of research. Often our perception and understanding of the candidates we see on our ballots on Election Day is largely comprised of the thousands of attack ads we see and mute in the weeks leading up to our elections. This is why we see so many people walking into a voting booth only knowing a single name on the ballot, and choosing whatever name they’re vaguely familiar with.

People tend to think their singular vote is inconsequential, and yet, if you add each of these singular votes together, they make a difference. It has never been more crucial that everyone that has a voice to be heard is informed when going into that booth on Election Day.

However, as we have all been consumed with midterms of our own in the past few weeks, for busy students, elections and politics are often put on the furthest back burners available. Therefore, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union Undergrad Chapter are hosting a “Voter Empowerment Seminar” Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Pendleton Room of the Union in order to foster a more politically aware climate on campus, and to inform students of the oft-forgotten influence of local and state politics on our lives.

The Voter Empowerment Seminar is a non-partisan event that will encourage students at the University to vote Nov. 4 by introducing them to candidates, their platforms and why in general, it’s important to vote. Student organizations will also have a voice in the event, presenting the speakers and focusing on the importance of students either filling out their absentee ballots or making it out to the polling place on Election Day.

In terms of speakers, we will have a wide variety, including ACLU Attorney Michael Steinberg, who will speak about restrictions to voting and the problems with Supreme Court elections in the past. Our lineup, coming from both Republican and Democratic parties, will be given a few minutes each to describe their initiatives if elected, and demonstrate why it’s so important for students to get out and vote Nov. 4. The confirmed candidates are:

Lisa Brown, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor
Richard Bernstein, Candidate for Michigan Supreme Court
Susan Baskett and Patricia Manley, Candidates for Ann Arbor School Board
Attorney Veronique Liem, Candidate for Circuit Court Judge
Chair Yousef Rabhi, Washtenaw Board of Commissioners — District 8
Tracy Van den Berg, Candidate for Washtenaw County Probate

At the very end of the event, students will have the opportunity to engage directly with candidates and ask questions in person. We hope that familiarizing students with candidates will make them feel more connected to the political process that many have just experienced in a classroom setting.

This event will be largely academic, because the candidates will be addressing issues on their platform that are relevant to students today. Students will not only listen to the candidates lecture, but will also engage in the learning process actively by asking questions and personally interacting with candidates and other student organizations. Some of the topics that may be covered in the event include gun control, health care, education, minimum wage, women’s rights, environment and any others that voters would be interested in learning about directly from the candidates themselves.

At the end of the day, the most fundamental component of our lives is our freedom to voice our opinions. If we choose not to voice them when it matters the most, then what’s the purpose of having one at all?

James Hendrickson is an LSA sophomore.

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