I didn’t always believe in voting. For years I failed to live up to my responsibilities as a citizen. It wasn’t because the candidates weren’t appealing. Or because voting was just too much of a hassle. Voting just wasn’t important to me.
When you think about it there a whole lot of reasons not to vote. Sometimes voting really is difficult. Voters can face long lines due to a reduced number of polling places. There can be confusion about the kinds of ID you need at the poll. Maybe your state has strict voter ID laws and you don’t want to wait in line just to be sent home. You may have recently moved and don’t know exactly how to vote absentee.
Or you could be like me. A person unfortunate enough to live in a non-swing state. As a Democrat living in the state of Georgia voting can be a frustrating experience. Or you may be a Republican living in a blue state like New York or California.
The question is why bother voting in an election that you couldn’t possibly influence? It’s not like the outcome depends on you. My state hasn’t gone Democrat for over 20 years. (This time could be different).
The fact is that it matters whether or not we vote. Voting is important even in states that are clearly red or clearly blue. Here’s why:
On Nov. 8, we have the opportunity to exercise one of our basic rights as an American. At the national, state and local levels we get to choose leaders we think will serve us best. Some folks say voting isn’t worth the effort because no one good is running. Others just don’t trust the government. So, to them it doesn’t matter who leads us. “I’m sitting this one out,” you might hear them say.
You may have many reasons for staying home on election day. One of the big ones may the feeling that your vote doesn’t matter. You may feel that both parties are corrupt. Or that neither presidential candidate is really worthy of your vote. I can relate.
Neither party is perfect. And there are no perfect candidates. They say the reason good people don’t run for office is the toll it takes on them and their families. Who among us can stand the kind of scrutiny these folks are subjected too? We all have skeletons. I’m sure there are things you wouldn’t want the public to know about you either.
It’s easy to become cynical. It’s tempting to turn a blind eye to politics. That’s why the majority of Americans never vote. Whatever the outcome on election day, about half of us will be angry at the result. For those of us in that position, it will tempting to turn our backs, pick up our marbles and go home.
Actually there is much at stake.
Do I need to remind you of the powers of a president?
- The president has veto power.
- The president is commander in chief of our military.
- The president gets to pick (with Senate approval) Supreme Court justices who may serve for life.
- The president can send our military to any location on the planet.
- The president can pick federal judges, ambassadors and other government officials.
- The president can issue pardons.
- The president can issue “executive orders.” (without congressional approval).
- The president can negotiate with Congress to influence legislation.
- The president represents us on the world stage.
- The president can make treaties.
And to think, all of this power is in just one person’s hands.
Make Them Hear You
Sure voting is important. But that’s not the only reason to do it. It’s also your responsibility as a citizen.
Our democracy works best when it lives up to its founding principles. Casting a vote is one of the few chances we get to hold this country to what it put down on paper, aka the constitution. We’re supposed to hold free and fair elections in which every eligible citizen casts a vote. It’s our job to ensure that our electoral process works according to this principle.
The most powerful peaceful weapon we have is casting a vote. We must punish those who try to derail the process by making sure they don’t win the day. At least not at the ballot box.
It is up to each one of us to protect the process itself. We can’t fix voting by staying home on election day. If you hate the new voting restrictions like I do keep this in mind: These laws were created by elected officials. Most of them came to power in years with low voter turnout. So folks who vote all of the time elected people who want to restrict your voting rights. Seems to me, one of the best ways to fix voting is to actually vote.
As messy as it may be, our participation is a must.
Ever heard the expression “stand up and be counted”? Voting gives us that opportunity. I don’t care how strong of a person you are it always hurts to feel shut out or ignored. Not voting is like saying hey, I don’t count. My opinion doesn’t matter. We both know your opinion should matter.
There are many ways to check on your voting status. In most states making sure your on the voter rolls, finding your polling place or getting info about absentee voting is just a phone call away. They can also tell you whether or not you’ll need to acquire a special ID to cast a ballot in person. Many states of course have early voting for national elections.
Another convenient tool is the many websites that offer the same service. Headcount.org is one of the better ones. It’s very comprehensive, providing info on just about every aspect of voting in your state.