I shared President Obama’s Facebook post the other day about voting, and I had a friend respond that ‘She wished her voice mattered.” Like her, you might ask yourself, “Why should I vote?”
I get it, I really do. My friend gave me a slew of reasons she didn’t feel like voting accomplished anything, and I didn’t disagree with her thought process. However, for every reason there is NOT to vote, there is a reason you should.
You will still deal with the consequences
Not casting your vote is the one surefire way to make sure no one hears your voice. You will silence yourself, and yet still have to deal with the outcome.
Voting is your chance to speak out on the issues that matter: minimum wage, school funding, public works, and state laws. These laws have effects that last for years if not generations, and if more people shared their thoughts, I think there would be better laws passed.
With presidential elections, I feel like there are three groups, nearly everyone fits into:
- I hate whoever is there now, and I would like the other party to win
- I love who is there now, and I would want the other party to lose
- I think both candidates are terrible, so I will not vote
The thing about this is that people in the first two groups will vote. There is no way they wouldn’t. They have an outcome they want to ensure happens. This is great, their voice gets heard! The people in the third group who sit out the election will live with what everyone else chooses.
The thing is, though, is that there is always a third party option. They don’t get talked about much, and their numbers are much lower comparatively. But if everyone who didn’t vote at all, because they don’t like either candidate, voted for the third party choice, the uptick in numbers and interest might change the way they get to campaign. It would send a message for sure. You will almost certainly still deal with an option that you don’t like, but your voice will be counted, and a discussion will take place.
Now, even if we do all this, even if every bogus voter-suppression law is struck off the books today, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves that too many of us choose not to exercise the franchise. Too many of our citizens believe their vote won’t make a difference, or they buy into the cynicism that, by the way, is the central strategy of voter suppression, to make you discouraged, to stop believing in your own power. – Barrack Obama
It is your money, and this is your chance to say how it gets spent
When you vote, there are more things at play than “Who will win the presidential election?” There are questions about specific issues, usually relating to health care and social services, that ask about allocating state funds, i.e., YOUR money!
The officials you end up electing will vote on other budgetary issues and decide how your money is allocated. You already have skin in the game, so wouldn’t you want to vote in someone like-minded?
The history of voting rights matters
In the 1700s, only white property holders (men) had the privilege of voting. Although freedom of religion is a constitutional right, some states also used religious tests to guarantee that only Christian men voted.
In 1870, Congress passed the 15th Amendment, which ensured that people could vote despite their race. However, several states began using poll taxes and literacy tests to reduce the number of African American men who voted.
“We no longer have to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar in order to cast a ballot,” Obama referred to one way they disqualified people from voting while delivering John Lewis’ eulogy. And the laws that ensured their rights to vote were not infringed upon are only a few decades old.
Inspired by voting rights marches in Alabama in spring 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The vote was decisive and bipartisan: 79-18 in the Senate and 328-74 in the House. President Lyndon Johnson signed the measure on August 6 with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other icons of the civil rights movement at his side.
Women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1920. Women have only been “allowed” to vote for 100 years. It was a long road to get here. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton did not chain themselves to desks and endure being ostracized by society so I could sit here and do nothing. The history of POC and women who fought so hard for each of us to have a voice deserve that we honor them.
Voting is the catalyst for change
American’s have the power to remake our country every couple of years. We do not have to accept the status quo or things we dislike. We may take part in non-violent civil disobedience and protest. Taking part in demonstrations can be productive, but so is voting! It is a cornerstone of our democracy.
To quote Lin Manuel and his masterful artistry, that is Hamilton, King George says, “I’m perplexed. Are they going to keep on replacing whoever’s in charge? If so, who’s next?” That is up to you and me and all our fellow Americans to decide! The system is flawed for sure, but fighting to make it better is a much better use of all our time, than perpetuating the idea that we have no power. This is America. We have always believed that we could work together for a more perfect union.
John Lewis said, “If you don’t do everything you can do to change things, then they will remain the same. You only pass this way once; you have to give it everything you have.”
You can create a better America by doing your civic duty to vote
The point of this piece is not to tell you who to vote for but to encourage you to take back your voice and power. If more Americans got invested in backing their candidate, grassroots campaigns, or local governments, we would enjoy the results. We are:
“one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (Francis Bellamy’s original version from 1892).”
It is time to stop being so divided about the things that do not matter and unite and remember that we are indeed one nation, a flawed country with our fair share of wrongs, but one that holds self-evident truths that we can be a better version of ourselves.
There is no need for America to go backward. We can move forward and live up to the promise of our great nation. We can be proud to be Americans and be kind and decent. We can be respected and loved as a nation around the globe. We get there when every American voice is heard. We get there by remembering who we are and casting the vote that so many fought, bled, and died for the right to do.