“My vote doesn’t matter!”
“Nothing’s gonna change because of ONE vote!”
“(fill in your state here) has ALWAYS been (Democratic/Republican), what will MY vote do!”
With every Federalist-Papers-loving-ounce in me, I hope you aren’t entirely familiar or supportive of the phrases above.
However, the sad truth is, The United States’ voter turnout is scarily low when compared to other countries of similar or lesser status/wealth. While the 2016 election had a slightly higher turnout than the 2012 election, almost half of our eligible voting population still isn’t taking the initiative to vote. Of course there are a lot of understandable reasons for not voting in an election—lack of knowledge of the issues, lack of accessibility to a voting booth, prior, more important commitments (such as work), or plain apathy, more common in midterm elections (studies found that the 2012 election had more than double the votes as the 2014 midterm election did).
Photo: Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash
Now, I’m not saying that the United States should make voting mandatory by law… that would be equally (if not more) dangerous to our democracy than apathy amongst eligible voters.
I’m also not particularly concerned with voters who can’t come out to the booth because of personal reasons, such as the circumstances listed above. The group I want to acknowledge and warn is the group that finds themselves uttering the seemingly innocent phrases present above.
Now, the notion that one vote cannot change the outcome of an entire election isn’t entirely wrong. It’s more so the collective apathy that the notion installs in our voters. If one person follows this mindset, it surely won’t alter much. However, we all know that that’s impossible. Once the “one vote” starts to become millions of votes, outcomes of elections can be drastically changed. It’s the apathetic mindset that’s harmful. I’ve been there. Growing up, my parents made an effort to vote in most elections, but I’d hear the same things. It wasn’t until I voted in an election that I realized the power voting has.
Now, I’m not 18. I’m talking about a mock election for an organization called Junior States of America. JSA is the largest student-run organization in the country, and aims to prepare high school students to be informed, active citizens in our democracy through debate and discussion. I joined sophomore year, and learned that we vote in our state and regional student leadership. Obviously this vote pales in comparison to a vote in an actual local, state, or national election, but it taught me how important the action of voting is. It empowered me.
Don’t get me wrong---I’m not saying that just because a voter is eligible to legally vote, means they should. Ideally, voters should be completely informed and unbiased. Eligible voters should make a conscious effort to stay informed, even just on a couple issues they care about.
Eligible voters should also make a conscious effort to keep up with elections OTHER than the presidential elections. Midterm and Gubernatorial elections are just as important.
Following the trend of not voting because “it won’t matter anyway” is harmful, and doesn’t work in democracy. It goes against the very core of democracy—government for the people, by the people. You can’t rightfully complain about our political leadership unless you’re involved in the political process and fulfill your duty as a citizen to vote. Democracy isn’t something you can just sit and watch from the sidelines. Democracy is something you have to actively keep participating in to keep alive. What happens when everyone decides their votes “won’t matter?”
We are so lucky to live in a system where our thoughts, opinions, and ideas matter. Obviously there’s flaws with American politics—there’s flaws with politics at its very core. Instead of sitting out from the game, make your voice heard. It starts with a vote.
Neha Lund is a rising senior at Manalapan High School who is passionate about politics, feminism, education, and leadership. She plans to double major in Economics and Political Science, with an intent to go to Law School or work for a non-profit. She is very involved in Junior States of America, loves trying new food, and spends her time calling congressional offices to support youth leadership campaigns.