Monroe grad offers cure for voter apathy

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

MONROE — Why don’t people vote?

Ask that of 18-year-old Monroe High School graduate Matt Carlson, and you’ll get an award-winning essay.

Carlson, now a freshman at Oberlin College in Ohio, recently won the best high school entry in The Center for Voting and Democracy essay contest.

For that, he received $200 and "lots of publicity," he said.

"My essay is on their Internet site, and it was on NPR (National Public Radio)," he said.

Carlson’s essay had three main points.

First, he said the use of the Electoral College makes individuals feel their vote doesn’t count. He said it should be abolished.

Second, he said there should be more ways to register to vote, and he suggested computer registration.

Third, he said the two-party system leaves many people feeling like they are not represented, and he suggested proportional representation of partisan views.

"No two ideologies are going to cover everyone," Carlson said. "There could be 10 or 20, who knows how many?

"Just the fact that the president and congress represent the Republicans and the Democrats means that a lot of people with views outside of that realm aren’t represented. I can guarantee that there are voting people in the U.S. that don’t identify with those two parties."

He thinks allowing more parties, including the Libertarians and the Green party, would be ideal.

Carlson, who is majoring in philosophy and music performance and plays the tuba, will vote for the first time by absentee in Washington state.

So, he does he like for president?

"Ideologically, I’d love to vote for Ralph Nader," he said. "But realistically, that would reduce my vote to being a vote for George Bush, which is the greater of two evils.

"It’s very sad and cynical to me that people today vote against one candidate, rather than for somebody."

Because the next president will have U.S. Supreme Court appointments, Carlson said he may vote for Al Gore to ensure more liberal justices.

At his private college 30 miles from Cleveland, students are politically oriented, so most vote.

"When I think back about high school, very little was said about it," he said. "I think most everyone thought it didn’t really matter because whomever was president would have little effect on their day-to-day lives."

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