The privilege of an American citizen to vote is the right that defines our democracy. By exercising this fundamental right, we protect all the other rights of our constitution. Our ability and right to vote is an expression of equality; neither wealth nor fame or power can make one person’s vote count more than another person’s vote.
Yet, many potential voters say, “My vote doesn’t count and it doesn’t directly affect my life”. Others will say that they don’t vote because only those with money can influence government or that they “do not have the time” to be informed about all of the candidates or the issues and besides, “My one vote will not make a difference”.
There are many other reasons (pls see: excuses) given by people for not voting, yet every vote does count. Voting is our way of telling politicians and government officials what is important to us and whether we agree or disagree with how they are governing.
Those who say that their vote doesn’t count need to remember that the 2000 Presidential election was decided by the State of Florida…by only 537 votes. Individuals who don’t vote, when coupled with the millions of others who use the same excuses, could easily make the difference in any election. In a Democracy, the difference between which candidate will win or lose is based upon a collective effort of like-minded individuals and not the efforts of special interest groups who count on you being uninformed, frustrated, misinformed or spun into electing those who have their own best interests at heart. Sure, we all have that obnoxious conspiratorial friend who tells us not to bother with voting because “the banks and corporations buy elections,” but no amount of money from either group can overpower hundreds of millions of people casting their votes.
It is estimated that over 200 million people in the U.S. are eligible to vote…roughly only half of those actually do.
An opinion of which I am unapologetically self-righteous about is my contention that if you do not vote, I have absolutely zero interest in your feelings about politics or any topic/issue that can be affected by those who actually participate in our democracy. If you choose not to use your right to vote or to exercise your civic duty – a right that people have died to achieve – then I could care less about your feelings on wars, gas prices, education, social security, abortion, law enforcement, politicians, the President, taxes and any other social, domestic or foreign policy topic that can be affected by government.
For me, it’s simple: Don’t vote? Then keep your mouth shut. I’m not interested.
We are not a Democracy (technically we are a Republic) until we start acting like one and despite all the swagger and boasting that we do about ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ or being the ‘greatest nation’ in the World…half of those eligible to vote do not and I am left to wonder…what is all the bragging about?
Put your money where your mouth is.
Voting earns you the right to consider yourself an active member and responsible participant in our society. Not voting makes you nothing more than an irrelevant bystander, in which issues affecting your life are determined by other people.
- The following video is of Stimulated Boredom listeners from around the country who submitted photos sporting their “I Voted” stickers in 2008, in support of Barack Obama, whom I endorsed.
Voting is important because it is all about our taxes, our jobs, our neighborhoods, our health insurance, our bodies, our children’s education, our laws, our safety, equality, fairness and our justice system. It’s about you, your family and your neighbors. The President, members of Congress and the judges we elect influence all aspects of our lives…because we put them there to do so, to represent us.
Here are some reasons to vote on election day:
It’s Your Money
The member of Congress or President you vote for will decide how much of our wealth to allocate for public services and defense, how to distribute the tax burden and their intent for government regulations. It determines how your tax dollars will be invested for the present and for the future. Judges make decisions that ensure our state and federal laws are enforced.
It’s Your Health Care
Action by members of Congress and the President has made health insurance and services accessible to millions of Americans but many are still uninsured. Their decisions on healthcare issues and Medicare help to determine your access to health care, whether you have access to preventative services or – in the case of women – have the right to decide what to do with your own body.
It’s Your Job
The Congress and President influence what job training is available, fairness in hiring, pay equality, job and pension security, workplace safety and what industries may locate to your city, thus producing jobs and helping to eliminate unemployment.
It’s Your Highway Systems
The population and traffic in this country are growing rapidly in every state. Your members of Congress deal with legislation that determines how much money is available to help build highways, repair roads and bridges. Also, what federal funds are available to support various types of public transportation, including trains and buses.
It’s The Air You Breathe, Water You Drink, and Energy
Your members of Congress and the President will make decisions that determine pollution standards, fuel standards, enforcement strategies, investments in alternative energy, oil drilling and budgets for environmental programs.
It’s Your Neighborhood
Your members of Congress and the President make decisions that influence crime prevention activities, laws, and law enforcement, along with helping to ensure safe and affordable homes. They help to identify federal funds to help state-wide and community projects that enhance our quality of life.
It’s Your Children and Their Education
Members of Congress and the President can help or hinder families trying to raise their children. They help to set public education policy that will affect how well prepared your children and grandchildren will be for the future. The decisions that they make affect the quality and cost of higher education as well.
It’s Your Voice
If you do not vote, then other people – with stronger convictions than you – will determine how everything I just listed above will affect you. Why would anyone allow others to determine the outcome of issues that will directly affect their lives? Issues like stem-cell research, a woman’s right to choose, separation of church and state, taxes, gay marriage etc will be decided by those who could find the time to vote when you clearly could not.
Again, why would anyone willingly give that power over to another person, someone who is obviously more motivated than you and perhaps voting on issues or for politicians that you may oppose or who may not be looking out for your best interests? If you do not vote, you deserve whatever comes your way, positive or negative and you certainly do not have the right to complain or brag about the outcome. It is not yours to have an opinion on…you didn’t participate.
The officials that we elect affect every aspect of our lives. Every voter has the opportunity to make personal decisions and influence the future.
Although many election contests are won by comfortable margins, some have been so close that a single vote has made the difference between winning and losing. Some notable decisions resulting from a single vote include:
- In 1868, one vote saved Andrew Johnson’s presidency.
- In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency of the United States of America
- In 1921, one vote in the Tennessee legislature ratified the nineteenth amendment to the
Constitution and gave women the right to vote.
Even if the result of an election is not close, each vote sends a message: An overwhelming majority can give a candidate a mandate to move forward with their agenda or a slim victory can be a humbling reminder that perhaps the winner should compromise.
Once the people become disengaged and stop holding their leaders accountable by being active participants in the process, corruption inevitably follows.
Politicians have one overriding ambition, to get re-elected. Their entire existence is predicated on raising the funds, casting votes and behaving in a manner which will accomplish this end. If they vote in such a way that enough of their constituents express displeasure, they will inevitably adjust to ensure their political survival. However, the opposite can be true…when no one is holding them accountable, there is nothing to prevent them from serving self-interest, party interest or the interests of others outside of their constituency.
The beauty of our government is that we are able to have a coup d’etat every few years. If you don’t like the direction we are going in or if you think that we are headed in the right direction, you have the power to change or keep it…but only if you participate and abandon the excuses.
By: Dana Sciandra
Note From The Author: This piece was originally posted back in 2006 before the mid-term election. It has been re-posted because the argument and principles for the importance of voting are still relevant today.