Written and Media by Emma Canady.
There are a lot of strong and versatile opinions when it comes to politics. And I’m here for that! I love that there are so many opinions and viewpoints circulating around the American population when it comes to our politics and policies: in my opinion, that is an absolute necessity for democracy. This hodgepodge of viewpoints and experiences are what causes us to grow, expand, and adapt. If we all had one collective mind, there would never be any change which, arguably, is the most important part of politics. Change, of course, occurs from voting. As Normal Siegal writes in his Observer article, “The right to vote is a cornerstone of a constitutional democracy. It is fundamental that everyone vote.”
So while I have my own very strong viewpoints and political leanings, I could never begrudge someone their own opinions. I believe that everyone has the right to have their own voice heard. But what I do disagree with, loudly and belligerently, is when people don’t use their voices.
Voting is a right given to Americans. It is a right that thousands of people have fought for, bled for, died for. Voting is the base of the democracy that we live in. African Americans, Native Americans, women, and other groups of people bitterly fought for their right to vote, to have a say in the American narrative. Because of this, I get a little miffed when I hear people say that voting is unnecessary, stupid, or pointless.
To quote a really adorable little kid in the Buzz Feed video Kids Explain Why Voting Matters, “everyone thinks their voice doesn’t matter, but that is such, such a lie”.
Voting is absolutely and irrevocably not pointless.
Yes, your vote does not directly tally against Trump or Clinton. It’s not quite as quid pro quo as that Kevin Costner movie Swing Vote, but it’s still just as important as that. Each vote is given to the representative that, surprise, we voted into the Electoral College. For example, in Illinois representatives will wait until Illinois votes are locked in. Then, since we are given twenty electoral votes, they could look at the eight Republican votes, the ten Democratic votes, and the two Independent votes and go: Hey, we’re predominantly Democratic. I’ll vote Democratic to represent the majority of this state. (For more information on the Electoral College, check out this easy Ted-Ed video explaining the system.) This doesn’t mean that your vote doesn’t matter, since one party had more: it’s all the more reason to go out there and vote, making sure that you are heard, winner or not.
Outside of individual voting not mattering, one excuse often spouted is that voting doesn’t matter because all politicians are crooked. This, to be blunt, is utterly ridiculous. Yes, politicians might be swayed by things that you disagree with and yes, they probably have made mistakes, both personally and career-wise: but haven’t we all? Why is to be a politician synonymous with being perfect? Sometimes, even if we don’t like it, voting becomes choosing between two bad options. But the lesser of two evils still isn’t the biggest evil. And that’s not nothing.
There are problems with the voting system, of course. There are actions gone to limit voting, uncontested opponents, candidates that seem just as bad as each other: but these negative aspects of voting do not deter from the importance and goodness of the act of voting itself.
Actor and activist Jesse William stars in a short video where he implores the importance of voting, saying “If someone says [that] democracy is a sham, those people don’t speak for me, the system is rigged: you say, vote… [If] someone says, hey, I’m making a statement by not voting: you say, well, I can’t hear it.”
As the video goes on, Williams explains the countless things someone unregistered to vote can’t affect: local and state policies, their district attorney, their mayor. “This government was designed to be changed. You can either make that change or you can take what little they give you.” He continues. “Democracy is not a sham. It’s a job.”
Voting is important because we have a voice. Vote for your judges, your city council, your state representatives. Vote for your president. If you have the chance to make the country better, take it. It’s our duty to use our voices and our votes to make this country the best that we can.
And if you think the system needs changing, then that’s great, too. Find politicians that agree with your points of view and vote them in. Because change can and will occur through voting– so make sure you’re a part of that.
Voting registration for the upcoming presidential election closes on October 23 for online registration and November 8 for in person.