In any election cycle, there are two groups of people playing the biggest part in the outcome: candidates and voters. Without voters, candidates would be campaigning to no one in particular, and without candidates, voters would be unable to select someone to run their country that they feel closely represents their values.
However, this means a significant amount of the population is left behind. Non-voters, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, make up 42.5 percent of the eligible voting population. But they are often dismissed as irresponsible or unpatriotic, when their reasons for staying away from the polls are as diverse as their opinions.
One of the most prevalent reasons Michigan State students stayed home on Election Day is disillusionment with the political system.
Junior computer science major Julian Ellis refuses to vote simply out of a perceived obligation to do so. He wants his vote to represent his ideology, and does not feel that this presidential election allows him to do that.
“I believe the election process is supposed to find the best person for the job,” Ellis said.
Junior Spencer Bonds, a human biology major, argued against the common notion that voting is a civic duty — he is equally free as an American to not vote.
“I chose not to vote because I didn’t want either candidate to be elected,” Bonds said. “I feel like I have as much of a right to abstain from voting if I don’t feel confident in either of the options.”
Sophomore John Bower agrees that none of the candidates have done enough to earn his vote, and finds it difficult to balance his political beliefs with his personal morals.
“It’s more of a trust issue,” Bower said. “I trust [Hillary Clinton] more as a politician than I would Donald Trump, but I can’t align with how [Trump] acts as a person. I think the things he says to people isn’t presidential.”
Bower, a registered Republican, added that he is “not a fan” of his party’s presidential candidate, and that a dislike of all of the candidates led to his choice not to vote for president.
If the last election cycle is any indication, non-voters tend to agree with Ellis and Bower and are highly displeased with the current political climate. A 2012 USA Today poll found 42 percent of non-voters felt there was no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, and 37 percent said politics doesn’t make much difference in their life in general.
This lack of faith in the government’s interest in citizens’ issues is a major factor in many students’ decisions to avoid the voting booth – but not all students. Some who stayed home on Election Day simply weren’t sure how the election process works, and by the time they found out, it was too late.
“It was unclear to me how to vote being away from home, but apparently I would have to go home which I can’t do today,” kinesiology senior Jared Rotenberg said. “It’s just the way the system is set up.”
Political science sophomore Alexis Smith had many of the same issues as Rotenberg.
“I couldn’t vote because I was registered at (my) home and my license changed, but I would have voted for Hillary Clinton,” Smith said.
Uncertainty about the voting process was the sole problem for some students. But most Michigan State non-voters agreed with Ellis, who didn’t believe it was his responsibility to vote for someone if he didn’t approve of his choices.
“When we have two options that I clearly do not support, I’m not doing my job as a voter by just picking the lesser of two evils,” Ellis said. “I do not see the purpose of playing a game I’m going to lose.”
This story was reported by Zachary Manning, William Thiede, Harrison Thrasher, Conrad Ohenzuwa, Tamar Davis, Kelly Sheridan, Audrey Snow, Olivia Rubick, Grant Cislo, Nadia Lorencz, Cierra Pryor, Whitney McDonald, Joelle Marino, Anastasia Niforos, Jason Ruff, Allison Contreras, Jaimie Bozack, Anna Nichols, Blair Moon, Drew Kovac, Morgan Pad, Kayleigh Garrison, Joshua Chung, Anthony Sandoval, Paul Childress, Dimitri Babalis, David Greenberg, Kaley Fech, Luke Burchatt, Madison Job, Kathleen Kennedy, Emily Liebau, Mariah Dimitroff, Steve Marer, Lukas Eddy, Zihan Li, Junyao Li, Kiryn Swain, Sophia Charboneau, Lauren Wallenreis, Tori Robinson, Ian Hawley, Jonathan Shead, Andrew Birkle, Madeline Stamm, Jonathan LeBlanc, Alexis Downie, Ashley Verbyst, Jake Pawloshi, Julia Swoish, Rianna Middleton, Xinyi Xie, Emily Orlando, Xin Wen, Sasha Zidar, Patrick Kenkel, Samantha Lewakowski, Hannah Holliday, Gowoon Lee, Zhenjie Change, Truelove Arhin, Andy Chmura, Madison O’Connor, Denise Spann, Justine Baker, Kendall Ashman, Emily Lovajz, Xavier Thompson