Voter Participation: How should we really judge it?
March 2, 2020
America is great. People have a wide range of freedoms; one of which is the ability to elect their own leaders based upon their own research and opinions. In a sense, Americans have the right to choose how their country is run; something not everybody on Earth can say (China, Russia, Syria, etc).
However, many believe that every single American has to take advantage of their right to vote
- A because they have a right that not many other countries have
- B because voter participation is a statistic that people want to see at 100 percent, mostly for pride purposes.
But does there really need to be this pressure for every single American to vote in an election?
To start, there is the question of does one vote really matter in the bigger picture? For instance, in the 2008 presidential election, the average voter had just a one in 60 million chance of deciding the race (via New York Times). Yes, democracy is built off of voting being a communal decider, not individually-based, but the vast majority of Americans already vote and there have been no signs of democracy really slowing down. Therefore, there does not need to be this lust for 100 percent voter participation if some do not feel inclined to vote.
One of the main reasons people choose not to vote is that their beliefs do not align with that of any of the candidates. In 2016, this was the case for many people on both sides of the election. People that do not believe in any of the running parties have no need to vote because they have no preference. In a sense, wouldn’t passionate voters only want the people that feel strongly about one side of an election to vote? The people that have no strong ties to a side would merely be skewing the results away from what the actually politically-concerned Americans feel.
Another smaller issue is the time and effort it takes to vote, as long lines are a constant image associated with voting in elections. The opportunity cost, if you will, of going to vote as opposed to doing other things, is problematic for some. For instance, a single mom can not afford to skip a shift of work to vote, or take time out of her busy day with her kids to go and vote. Some people do have legitimate excuses because their lives come before voting.
Also, some people have cited a potentially corrupt voting system as their reasons for not going to vote. Minorities especially sometimes feel misrepresented in the voting system, and many do not trust the voting process, especially the electronic system. In the 2016 election, some people believe that the Republican party even attempted to block minority voters. (See: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/31/a-threat-to-democracy-republicans-war-on-minority-voters)
Overall, yes, voting is a great privilege that we as Americans have, and it is something that should be valued and appreciated. However, there should not be negative stigma around people choosing not to vote. Voting is a right, not a requirement, and it should be treated as such. If, for one of many reasons, someone chooses not to vote, that should not change how they are viewed or what people think of them. They are merely making a choice, a different choice than some people. Of course, choices and opposing viewpoints are what drive most conflicts, and it is understandable that some individuals would feel passionate about people not voting.
My advice: Leave the non-voters alone, and focus more on the actual voting population and their views instead of getting upset with those that choose not to.
It’s 2020 which means the biggest election in our country is right around the corner. With a controversial president, eligible voters everywhere are starting to feel the pressure to show up to the polls. Some might find the process exhausting or may not connect strongly with any of the candidates running, encouraging them to stay home on November 6. However, those with cold feet fail to see the bigger picture that voting, unfortunately, is a privilege in this country, and the results could very well change the course of our nation forever.
The most common complaint of individuals hesitant to vote is the time commitment. Registering in Georgia consists of filling out a form- a maximum of 10 minutes- and then waiting 3 to 4 weeks for it to be processed. While the time to receive official voting status may be jolting due to its month long wait, citizens only have to participate for a miniscule amount of that time. Furthermore, according to the Government Accountability Office, actually casting a ballot lasted an average of 14 minutes in the 2012 election, which sounds like a small price to pay to strengthen or weaken our country for the next 4 years.
However, some may not mind the long lines and instead, are focused on the significance of their vote or the lack thereof. Almost 19 million of those registered to vote decided against it because they felt their vote wouldn’t make a difference. While the odds for your vote being influential are 1 in 10 million, having a large population of registered voters sharing the same indifferent sentiment can create a larger impact in the election. Considering the voting process is quick and free, those who have the means to vote should vote and represent those who can’t.
Speaking of indifference, many voters may disagree with both parties candidates that are running for office. They may find the policies of one contradicting with their personal views but find the other candidate’s platform unrealistic, convincing them to avoid contributing to eithers’ success. Honestly, I understand this one; 2016’s race of Trump vs. Clinton didn’t include a candidate I could really relate to. But at that point, it’s a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils in your opinion. Viewing the race in the eyes of a group targeted by one of the candidates can help differentiate which candidate would create a better, more welcoming America.
Now, I realize there are reasons why Americans don’t vote that are out of their hands, such as they’re unable to get time off work or there are no accessible ballots for them. I disagree with any negative stigma those less fortunate receive for not voting on the basis of the matter is out of their hands. However, understanding this should show able voters how privileged they are to have the choice to vote or not. The thousands of people who might never have a chance to vote need representation and that comes in the form of voters who can choose to go vote in the polls.
Another exception I’d like to bring up are the corrupt ballots in minority districts that discourage voters from showing up. In fact, Georgia has had some of the more serious cases of voter suppression, including Brian Kemp’s office in Georgia blocking 53,000 voter registrations — 70 percent from African-Americans, 80 percent from people of color. Acknowledging Georgia and other state’s restrictive voting laws that target the less fortunate/non-white districts is the only proof a voter should need when debating whether or not to vote in elections. Voters who aren’t affected by these laws should exercise their rights for those who can’t and help get the bigoted politicians out of office.
Therefore, while voting may not be an option for a significant amount of the population, there’s still eligible voters that have the ability to exercise their rights. There may be obstacles and deterrents, but if you have the choice to vote, it’s your duty as an American to represent those who can’t. Our voting processes are designed to filter out the majority of American voices, but by not voting, you only give in to the desires of corrupt politicians hoping for indifference to their harmful policies, instead of making a difference in the nation.