Why should I bother voting in elections? What does my single vote matter? It’s an all-too-common sentiment in the U.S. as voter turnout rates have historically remained very low in elections held every two years.
Low voter turnout is especially surprising when considering the millions of people in the past who have fought and died for freedom and the ability to determine their governing leadership. Furthermore, as a people of action, we need to be able to step up and speak up for what we believe. While not an advocacy article for a specific political candidate, party or philosophy, I can only hope to convey my reasons for voting and why I feel it is important, if able, to exercise this sacred right.
In presidential elections since 1972, voter turnout amongst eligible voters in the United States has been right around 50 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2008, the voter turnout was a relatively ‘high’ turnout of 57.1 percent of eligible voters, up several percentage points from the 2004 and 2000 elections, with rates of 55.7 percent and 50.3 percent respectively.
It surprises me that, historically, just less than one in two adults in the U.S. do not vote. Granted, some are unable due to injury, mental inability or circumstances beyond their control. I would venture to say, however, the majority of nonvoters have the means and ability but choose not to. While many have their reasons, and all have every right to refrain from voting, it still surprises me that so few choose to exercise this right to elect individuals that will ultimately affect policies that impact the voters’ very own lives.
Today, millions of people around the world have no say in who governs them. In some societies, speaking out against the government can have life-changing, if not life-ending, consequences. Dictatorships, autocracies, totalitarian regimes and faux democracies prevail in the world today. Evidence of this and the quest for self-governance has proved evident across the Middle East, as discontented populations have changed or are changing the regimes that govern them by force.
As Americans, we are fortunate. Since our country’s formation more than 200 years ago, we have possessed the power to elect our local, state and national leadership. It’s all too easy to take this for granted and think that our individual say in the matter is not worth the effort to register and vote. Imagine if every eligible voter didn’t vote. Imagine if they did. On a macro level the effect would be monumental either way.
Personally I vote for two reasons. Most importantly, I believe it is critical to determine who will lead my nation, state and community. Secondly, I vote as a way of showing appreciation to the millions of men and women who have fought, suffered and died throughout history in pursuit of my right to do so.
My humble advice is simple – if you are able and of age, get informed and vote. Regardless of political affiliation, exercise the right to vote won by those who served before in pursuit of self-determination.
As former President Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address (1863), “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”