Voting Booths

Why the national election shouldn’t be your only concern

Voting and democracy go hand in hand.

Voting is your civic responsibility.

People fought and died to give you the right to vote.

Don’t take voting for granted.

These statements are cliché because they are true, yet we never take the time to explain why. Why is voting such a big deal? Does my one vote matter?

I believe it does, and my resolve is to show why voter participation is necessary for a successful democracy, not just nationally but all the way down the ballot.

While the answer may seem intuitive and belabored given the representative system in which we reside, turnout would suggest that nearly half the population believes otherwise. In so much as we are quick to complain when our financial and social situations are subpar, many let common (faulty) thought stifle their vote.

Some see their singular vote as a ‘drop in the bucket’ or a ‘shout in the storm’. But while elections are never won by one vote, they often are closer than people typically think.

Political scientists’ common saying that, ‘elections are won in the margins,’ is uttered for good reason; very small differences in voting patterns and turnout can dramatically change the results of elections.

And while your vote amongst the tens of millions of American citizens on the national scale may be minimized to relative insignificance, we drop orders of magnitude when we examine the state and local level.

Not only does your vote become more impactful, but also more individually focused to your circumstance since local and state propositions and officers will have a more direct correlation to your life.

The electoral college is another oft-cited inhibiting factor in the voting process, specifically in making voters’ say less direct. In this systemic venom and ire towards the electoral system, however, we lose sight of the fact that these representatives still cast their vote based on an informed stance and the popular vote.

As stated before, the national election is rarely the only contested race on the ballot, and in addition to state and local elections, many states feature referendum voting. Important policy issues are often included, such as the legalization of marijuana, the continuation of the death penalty, local ordinance changes, etc., that can have major implications for your life moving forward.

Perhaps the most common modern day complaint, though, is people saying, “I do not know enough.” While this is fair and respectable to diagnose of one’s self, it is still rather exasperating in the information-driven world in which we live today.

Is bias inherent in nearly every major media outlet that exists today? Yes, but that cannot be used as a crutch for ignorance. The only way to become an informed, well-rounded voter is to voraciously consume articles, data, and pundit-speech from both sides, and form your own opinion based on the aggregate you collect.

A successful democracy must have voter participation. Turnout in the 2012 presidential election was 53.6%, with Obama taking 51.1% of the vote and Romney taking 47.2% of the vote. When our democracy is not accurately representing what we feel is right, then, should we turn the looking glass on our elected officials, or on our peers in the voting population?

If you are an active, informed voter, it will be easy to dismiss this article out of hand and say it does not apply to you. And while you are, in some ways, right, the challenge of American civic duty is also to ask, ‘am I being an active agent of political socialization?’ (in trying to get people to become informed and motivated about voting?)

It is never too late, not even a day before the election, to research any candidate’s views and stances, on either side. Do not anecdotally follow my example in entering the booth for my first time voting clutching a sample ballot with a head empty of any independent knowledge of my own.

Educate yourself, and vote.

*The opinions expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the views of the Geneva Cabinet.

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