Don’t Know? Don’t Care? Don’t vote.

Maya Itah

Election season is over, but a circus of any kind always leaves some confetti in its wake. Regardless of the fact that there are no more votes to cast, comments about big oil, marijuana and Meg Whitman’s infamous housemaid are still speeding through campus.

Many people find this talk annoying. We’ve made the decisions, after all. Can’t we walk down Trousdale Parkway in peace?

But if those who have already voted are exasperated, consider the feelings of the people who didn’t vote. Many students are as apathetic as ever, but a lot of non-voters are likely experiencing some guilt.

On top of the professors who urge us to vote, there’s always that one friend who won’t shut up about politics. And, well, there was that one time the president practically begged us to vote right in front of Doheny Library. That was kind of a big deal.

Non-voters of USC, have no fear: This column isn’t going to give you any more grief.

In an ideal world, all members of a democracy would be public policy experts, swatting aside propaganda and casting educated votes. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. The midterms we’re familiar with come with blue books. We have jobs and extracurriculars; many of us probably can’t remember the last time we cooked a decent meal (or did laundry, for that matter).

Now, none of this presents a challenge to the politically inclined. If you love elections, following the candidates is fun. It’s just like any interest. Cinema students have homework like everyone else, but they still make it to premieres, right?

The thing is, if politics isn’t your thing, it’s homework — plain and simple. People don’t like to do homework. For some of us, the following happens: either we don’t do it or we end up turning out a less-than-exhaustive effort.

Voting works the same way. A lot of people who weren’t that interested in the first place get told to vote right and left so they eventually give in, only to find that no amount of pamphlets will compel them to care about mortgage laws. Some people even mark in random bubbles — “Hey, at least I voted, right?”

Not exactly. Voting is a privilege, and it comes with additional obligations. If you commit yourself to voting, you commit yourself to looking beyond commercials and doing your own research. You commit yourself to gaining at least a basic command of the issues.

If you happen to be among those people who don’t care, and can’t force themselves to care, don’t vote. Just don’t. Don’t feel guilty, don’t make excuses and don’t succumb to pressure, well-meaning as it might be. Perhaps you’re not being the most responsible citizen out there, but no one is perfect. Democracy means having the right to not vote, too.

Before someone starts throwing metaphorical tomatoes at me, I would like to emphasize that I’m not discouraging people from voting. It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself. However, it’s also one that must not be taken lightly. If you’re going to commit, go for it. Your state — and your country — need you.

But if you’re going to choose whichever name sounds cooler? By all means, carry on studying for your own midterms. There’s something honest and responsible about admitting that you haven’t done enough research to understand the issues. A misinformed vote is worse than no vote at all.

Just remember that you’re forfeiting the best right in the United States: the right to complain.

Maya Ita is a columnist for the Daily Trojan at the University of Southern California.