It’s not hard to craft a list of reasons why people in the U.S. would not want to vote. Our country’s political system has a tendency to alienate people with nonpartisan opinions, for instance. Many of us feel frustrated with our government’s processes, and helpless to take action or participate. Some of us become apathetic and feel like it’s easier to not get involved.
Lots of people experience these varying degrees of vexation over whether or not to venture down to the polls. In fact, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are around 219 million people in the United States who are eligible to vote – but only 57.5% of us voted in the 2012 Presidential election. The younger generation (also known as Millennials) are notorious for being the least likely to participate in elections, primarily because they are frustrated with the way the system operates. In fact, half of these young Americans do not affiliate themselves with a specific party, which is the highest percentage of disaffiliated citizens in history. As for the other age groups who are not voting? Many of them claim to be too busy to head to the polls. An additional 13% stated they were not interested in the candidates or their politics.
Beyond the lengthy – and often valid – reasons not to vote, what about the reasons we should?
So you’ve probably heard of how the Electoral College works, and maybe even cited it as a reason not to vote. Many people feel like this system is unfair and believe their votes won’t matter or count because of it. And for people who only come out to the polls every four years to vote in the huge presidential races then yes, it’s harder to see how voting Democratic in a predominantly Republican state might make a difference (though take note that President Obama was actually able to win the Democratic vote in 2008 for several states that had voted primarily Republican for years).
But presidential races are not the only important elections we participate in. In fact, the President of the United States – while certainly a very important and powerful figure – doesn’t have as much governmental power as we often believe. If you think back to your Civics or Social Studies classes in schools, you’ll recall that there are three different branches of government designed to help distribute the power and keep one another in check.
With this in mind, think about all of those other elections that happen year-round. There are federal elections, of course, but there are also state and local elections as well.
When it comes to public officials and electing representatives, everything is connected. As a board member of the Missouri NAACP put it: “Who hires the police officers? The police chief. Who hires the police chief? The mayor. Who hires the mayor? Who elects the council folks?”
The answer boils down to the voters. And in certain cases, when a group of people is not being well-represented in government, it’s often because of a lack of voter representation. If you’re not voting for the people who align with your viewpoints and principles, then how will those viewpoints and principles be represented in government? And if you don’t start from the ground up – with local elections or state officials – then how can you expect the various branches of the government to help support whichever presidential candidate you want to vote in come November?
Do Your Part
“Voting matters. When voters don’t turn out to choose their local and state governments, they receive a government that doesn’t represent them.”
Frustration over larger-than-life government processes can be eased by participating in those processes. The more we all do our part and share our voices, the more we start to find other voices who are saying the same things. Do your part this election season and get out to vote. Make yourself heard!
Start by finding your closest polling location so you can take part in the way our country is run. And be sure to follow the Dignity & Respect #IVoteBecause initiative over the coming months – tell us why you vote!