by Ted Miller
(originally published November 2016 in Tumbleweird)
Why should I vote if my vote doesn’t count?
Because it does. Your vote matters. And contrary to what you may hear, it gets counted and it makes a difference. Local and state elections have more of an impact on your life than who sits in the oval office.
So you wanted someone other than Hillary? Fine, but the Democratic Party process put her on the ticket. Can’t stand The Donald? Same deal, the Republican Party process made him the nominee. Think the process is flawed and biased? Work within your political party to change the process. The party process won’t change if everyone just stays home complaining.
And VOTE. Vote your conscience, but vote. Don’t cast a protest vote, cast an informed vote. Who best aligns with your values and principles? Who is best prepared to lead our nation forward? Do some objective research. Don’t blindly swallow the echo chamber memes of confirmation bias you see on your Facebook feed. Look up differing opinions. Read the recommendations of major newspapers and people you trust. Read the party platforms. Go to the candidates’ websites and read their policy positions and plans. There are more than two presidential candidates on your ballot. And if you really can’t bring yourself to vote for a presidential candidate, don’t color in one of those boxes. But VOTE for the other offices and initiatives on your ballot. There’s a lot more on the ballot than the presidential election, so don’t let the divisiveness over Trump vs. Clinton keep you from voting.
The presidential election isn’t the one that will affect you the most in your day-to-day life. Local and state elections are even more important and they tend to get the least amount of voter participation. Do you know who your state legislators are? Do you agree with them? Are you happy with funding for public education in the state? Are you happy with your city council? Were you happy when the voters rejected funding an aquatic center and a performing arts center? When your city council decided not to support a public market, did that represent your views? Get involved and let your voice be heard! Go to local government meetings, write letters to the editor, attend school board meetings, and use your ballot to put the people who best represent you into office.
There are six initiatives on the ballot this year. Have you studied them to understand them? Don’t just read the title and assume you know what the initiative is about. Read the voter’s guide. Who was behind getting the initiative on the ballot? What are their motives? Consider the arguments for and against. Be an informed voter.
The last thing you should use to make a decision are campaign television ads. There is no requirement for “truth in advertising” there. Political ads are designed to elicit an emotional response and they will twist and shade the truth. There is someone behind those ads that wants something, and it probably isn’t something for you. Caveat emptor.
Everyone who is eligible to do so should vote. Voting is a right guaranteed by the constitution that you should not abdicate lightly. Don’t throw it away by sitting out the election in protest or by marking your ballot without some level of research and understanding.
Statistics show that voter turnout is overwhelmingly higher for older, more affluent whites than any other demographic. In fact, young voters earning less than $50,000 per year turn out to vote at only half the rate of their older white counterparts. And yet the younger demographic is proportionately more adversely affected by regressive policy and spending that tends to favor the wealthy and big business. Help change that statistic. Get out and vote.
Exercise your voice of democracy. Think about your future and about the future of the next generation. What are your values? Whether you think of yourself as progressive or conservative, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Socialist, you have a say in this country. As long as the constitution stands, you have a voice in our democracy. Use it. For when the majority chooses to opt out of the process, the self-interests and powerful few get all the influence. And all too often they aren’t looking out for you.
Vote. Because it counts.