Categorized | Opinions

The big vote: is participating in elections really important?

Posted on 14 March 2016 by admin

At the end of the day, regardless of how it feels, it matters

Opinions Editor


Regardless of how we perceive politics and regardless of how little most people care to stomach the grueling 18 months of election season, one thing is for certain: voting is important.

Earlier this Monday afternoon I asked my boss if I could leave work an hour early to take a trip to the Board of Elections office and place my absentee vote.

I did this despite the inconvenience it added to my already hectic day because years ago when I became old enough to legally participate in the voting process I promised myself that I would always make sure to do my part — to participate in one of the most level playing fields our country has to offer its people.

Putting aside a mountain of school assignments, work projects and Spring Break preparations, I stood in a mundane line of people and waited my turn to finally make my political preferences known.

After filling out a mint green form and flashing my driver’s license to the desk clerk I was guided to an electronic screen with a ballot full of candidates from my party.

Taking no more than two seconds to select my preferred choice, I quickly moved on and went about my day. My younger sister — finally old enough to participate herself — waited for me by the door. She was smiling; she was proud of herself.

She had no quirky sticker telling everyone what she had done, and there is a chance I am the only person who knows who she voted for, but I could see on her face that she felt like she had done something important — and she had.

I remember the rush of my first presidential election. While people twice my age had already been somewhat disillusioned by the tedious nature of it all, I was excited. I was 18 years old — just finally old enough to be an adult. I was away from home, living in a dorm with friends and acquaintances I had chosen single-handedly and finally making myself the person I was supposed to be.

I followed every debate with vigor; I sparked intellectual discussions and read up on the issues. I wanted to feel important. Even with a handful of people I knew telling me my vote would not matter, I woke up early and checked my boxes. I wanted to feel as if I had at least actively tried to make a difference, even if it was small one.

As naive as it sounds, I considered myself lucky. Lucky to have the right to dabble in democracy when some cannot; lucky to have a say in the future of the country I live in; lucky, even, to be able to state ill-informed opinions on social media without fear of censorship.

Not everyone has such a privilege. There was a time when women had to fight for their voice; there was a time when people of color had to fight for their voice. In less literal ways, some of those people still do.

The numbers are daunting, I know. Elections involve terminology and processes that can be confusing and boring. I will not pretend to be an expert on politics, nor will I lecture people about why they need to pick a candidate on a computer or piece of paper.

I do believe, though, with every ounce and fiber of my being that if someone has even the smallest amount of faith in someone running for office that they should make their vote count. The politician I picked this year addressed all of my anxieties and appealed to all of my concerns; they were someone I feel I can believe in —which is something that I doubt will happen every four years.

I will not “Uncle Sam” anyone; I will not metaphorically shower someone with patriotism and beg them to care. If the passion is not there, do not vote; but if it is, do — and feel good about it.

It seems as if so often we take advantage of the luxuries we have been provided because we do not feel as if they are significant enough to acknowledge.

In my opinion, nothing is more significant than having a voice — having a say in what our world could be like. What would our society be like if we did not actively participate in the formation of our government? What kind of practices would we maintain?

As this staff’s resident loud and obnoxious editor, I am trying my best to keep my political preferences out of this piece. I am not going to share who I voted for, or try to make a case for or against my candidate’s opponents. That does not matter.

What does matter is the silence. The omission and unintentional agreements we make toward a certain agenda by refusing to acknowledge or correct it. In a time where so many issues are important and so many concerns are relevant, by not voting we sweep any possible solutions under a metaphorical rug.

I do not want to be a part of a culture which aims to turn us against each other, nor do I want to encourage a society where we allow our fears to dictate the people who get to make a life in our country. It is that very reason — and for that very purpose that I vote.


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