By Ruby Van Dyk, Editor in Chief
I turned 18 this last month, and although the cake and the gifts were wonderful, there was one thing that I got that I’d been waiting for, for a very long time. No, it wasn’t a car, or a tattoo, or a pack of cigarettes, it was something better. I was gifted the right to vote. Now, I’ll admit that I’m a little more into politics then the average teenager. But, still, why isn’t this commonly regarded as momentous among millennials? Voting is likely the most influential thing that the average citizen does regarding public policy, but it is often overshadowed by teens with the prospect of other “adult” privileges. Why is that? Why don’t we value voting as teens? Well, if you ask me, it most likely has something to do with the fact that our country doesn’t value voting.
During the Last Presidential Election in the United States in 2012, only 54.7% of eligible voters cast their ballots. Political Scientists determine voter turnout by looking at the number of people who are eligible to vote in a country. In order to be eligible to vote in the United States, a person must: Be a U.S. Citizen, be registered to vote, and be 18 years old and not in jail or judged incompetent by a court. This 54.7 % percent trails behind the majority of developed countries, many, let’s keep in mind, that were founded as monarchies, and not Democracies. Belgium: 89.4 %, Turkey: 84.3%, Denmark, 85.9 %. The list goes on and on. Why are we, the most prominent nation founded on the right of the people and the voice of the people, not showing up to exercise our right and voice our opinions?
If I were living in a oppressive, non-democratic nation, I think I might feel personally offended that millions and millions of American Citizens were choosing to partake in abstention during their own political process. On top of abstaining, Americans often proceed to complain for four year about their elected officials, only to proceed to not vote, again. There are billions of people in this world who would die to be able to have a say in their political process, I think it is our responsibility to remember that and appreciate the luxury we have of living in a democracy.
In a Study done by the U.S. Census Bureau regarding the low turnout of the 2014 Midterm elections, the number one answer selected as the reason why Americans didn’t vote was that they were “too busy.” Too busy with work, too busy with their kids, with their coffee, with life. Now, why is it that people are too busy to exercise their right to vote but not too busy to wait the extra 5 minutes in the Starbucks drive-thru? It’s because of the instant, tangible reward that comes with one of the choices, and not the other. Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel as though the election of a new President is one of the biggest, and most impacting rewards we can have as Americans. But the problem is, we are living in a culture where many citizens feel that politics are out of their view, and fail to participate in the political system. Americans choosing to be out of the political sphere are a problem. Many feel that their vote does not count. Not casting a vote is only a valid conclusion for a situation in which you have no power. But in an Election? One person, one vote. That’s something that rests firmly in the hands, of us, the American People. And I truly believe that to ignore that, is to do a disservice to ourselves, and our country.
Now, in all honesty, I am most likely not the best person to try and relate to the political apathy of American voters. I grew up in a household where we joked that elections were “our Super Bowls.” My Dad was a Political Science and Law Professor and I had memorized the order of our Presidents by the age of 6. Maybe it’s in my blood, or maybe I’m brainwashed, but the idea of not voting when you could, is something that I found, and still find, foreign. You don’t need to be utterly in love with a candidate in order to vote for one, and for those who detest both candidates, I’d suggest thinking about the bigger picture. Try to distance yourself from the physical candidate, and really look at their policies and try to understand the effect that each one could have on you. Think about the court systems, think about precedent, think about what change you want to see, and then find the candidate that you think can make that happen. You have a responsibility as an American to educate yourself, and cast your vote.
There’s a great quote by FDR, that goes “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” And yes, FDR was President over 50 years ago, but I think he makes an excellent point. We vote to not only advocate our ideas but to protect ourselves, and we throw that away every time we decide not to vote. So don’t throw it away, keep it. You’re lucky to have it.
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