In the 2016 presidential election, only 60 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. In the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, turnout was even lower — only 40 percent of people able to vote did so.
Everywhere I go lately, it seems to me that voter efficacy is at an all time low. People don’t think their opinions matter. They don’t think that they can make an impact.
There have been multiples U.S. presidential elections where the end result hasn’t swayed in the direction that the majority of the general population wanted it to. Al Gore lost to George W. Bush in 2000 despite winning the popular vote, and the same thing happened with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the most recent election.
Instances like these understandably frustrate voters and can shake their faith in the American political system. But doesn’t mean we should quit voting. That doesn’t mean we should quit trying to make a change if we see something worth changing.
Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, Green or Libertarian, your opinion is valid. Sure, one single vote usually can’t sway an election, but if that’s the reason you’re choosing not to vote, keep in mind that you’re not the only one thinking that way.
Maybe it’s likely that one voter can’t change an election, but a group of voters can without question. As the mentality that one vote doesn’t matter and doesn’t count for anything sweeps through the nation, one vote becomes several, which becomes many. This trend has the potential to continue until far too few people are voting. One vote suddenly makes a big difference.
We need to let go of the mindset that our opinions don’t matter, that our voices can’t make change. Our nation was born on the principle of freedom, and with that comes freedom of speech. We are blessed enough to live in a nation where we have the option to say what we think and how we feel. We are blessed enough to live in a nation where we can put that opinion down on paper and potentially see our voice be one of many to make a change in politics.
There’s more to the story of low voter turnout than just low efficacy, though. Often times, voters are troubled with the thought that they don’t particularly like either candidate running for a given position. Thus, they don’t want to show either candidate support by giving them a vote.
But it’s still important to show up to the polls. There’s more to a ballot than just the main candidates running for office. Maybe you’re not particularly passionate about what the media makes out to be the most important aspect of an election, but smaller office positions, proposals, and many other political decisions that need to be made have their place on the ballot as well.
Or maybe the issue isn’t that you don’t think your vote counts, or even that you don’t like the candidates. Maybe the issue, when it comes down to it, is that you aren’t interested in elections.
That’s valid, but a few months down the line when you’re upset about where our country is politically, refrain from complaining. If you want to earn the right to complain about politics, you have to express your political stance in a way that tries to make change. And what better way is there to do that than voting?
Voting is a constitutional right. It’s a privilege that, as American citizens, we are entitled to. Citizens of many other nations, however, cannot say the same. They don’t have the opportunity to have a voice in their governments like we do. Yet we overlook that right. We take it for granted, and we don’t celebrate it as we should.
Yes, our political system has flaws. I’m not refuting that. Nothing is perfect, nor can it ever be, but don’t expect anything to change if you don’t try to be part of the change. Being part of the change means voting, simple as that.