I can still remember turning 18 years old and all the excitement of becoming an adult. I was excited yet humbled and frightened. I had the power to make my own decisions and step out of the rule of my guardians for the first time in my life, but I also had to register to be drafted for war. I couldn't drink yet, but I could now die for the right to. I could also be charged as an adult for any crimes I might be involved with. I could now join the military or work full time. But the most memorable part of turning 18 for me was gaining the power to vote.
I remember learning in school about how hard won was the right to vote for many even in this country; from non-landowners to non-Caucasian races and women. The right to vote has not been freely given; people have died for it. How could I not vote, knowing what people have been through for the right to do so?
But it's more than that. I wanted to vote because voting is one of the greatest powers a citizen can wield. Politicians don't seem to care about people like me unless it's an election year; then, people like me suddenly matter, because voting is where the powerless have power, where the disenfranchised are given a voice, and where the weak can change their world.
Yet with all this power granted to citizens, less than half of Americans choose to vote. The largest voting constituency isn't conservative, nor is it progressive. It's apathetic: those who choose not to vote.
Perhaps apathetic isn't the best word to describe them. Though many really just don't care yet, this doesn't encapsulate everyone who doesn't want to vote. Many really do care but have lost faith in the system. I don't know how many times I've heard people say that their vote won't make a difference; it's just one vote; that politicians will do what they want anyway; the system is rigged and one vote isn't enough to change things. But I say that one vote CAN make a difference. Just ask a mosquito; though small and insignificant, they can drive grown human beings back in the house. Like the mosquito, you possess more power than you might realize.
Over the last 20 years, more than a dozen races have been decided by a single vote or ended in a tie. Here are just a couple of recent examples:
2017: A Virginia House of Delegates race ended in a tie out of more than 23,000 votes cast. The tie was broken by pulling a name, placed in a film canister, out of a bowl. Republican David Yancey was declared the winner. The result was heightened by the fact that the win gave Republicans control of the state House by a single seat.
2016: A Vermont state Senate Democratic primary was determined by a single vote out of more than 7,400 cast. During the same year a Vermont state House seat was determined by one vote out of 2,000. Here's what's really crazy: This was a rematch, and when they first faced each other in 2010, the race was also decided by one vote — in the other direction.
There are many more examples I could give, but I would argue that this isn't even the most important issue. Yes, races can be--and have been--swayed by one or a few votes--but that shouldn't even matter. Voting is participation and even an act of preservation of a democracy that is not promised or guaranteed to future generations. Without our participation, there is no democracy; we leave our fates in the hands of others, who may not have our best interests in mind. We forfeit our power and our voice to sculpt the world we live in. When this happens, we allow others to take away our freedoms, rights, and liberties.
Whether or not it changes the world isn't the entire point. Everyone has a voice, and every voice matters; the only one who can silence our voice is us. We don't always have the best options to choose from, but it is not true that they are all the same, and it's OUR CHOICE TO MAKE. Don't surrender your choice to someone who wants to take away what matters to you!
Please fill out this short form to commit to vote and receive reminders and important information about Election Day, then vote; vote for the change you need in your life, vote for democracy and future generations, but most of all, vote because YOU matter.