“I don’t like either of the candidates, so I’m just not going to vote;” this is a statement I’ve heard too many times from young people my age. Whether you realize it or not, voting is one of your civil liberties, up there with your right to freedom of speech, right to privacy and right to a fair trial, so needless to say it’s a bigger deal than I feel many voting age students realize.
The U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among highly developed, democratic countries, ranking a pathetic 31 out of 35 in the latest Pew Research Center study, with just over 53 percent of our eligible voting population coming out to the polls in 2012. Why are our numbers so low, when American politics are some of the most closely followed in the world?
Perhaps it’s the misconception that the youth vote is irrelevant or that your location prohibits you from making a difference.
“My vote doesn’t matter because I live in Texas,” is a constant statement among millennials in the area. In reality, every vote counts, especially those of young Americans. Young Americans have the power to shape an election, and they’ve done so before, such as in the 2008 election, when Obama’s victory was assured when he captured 66% of the youth vote. Out of over 100 million eligible voters, young Americans have the majority. There are an estimated 10.7 million more of us that are eligible to vote in 2016 than in 2012. We matter.
Our role in influencing this critical election has stayed largely unfulfilled so far. Over the past two presidential elections, studies show that youth voter turnout has continuously decreased. Now is our chance to step into some bigger shoes and exercise our right to vote.
Many of the conversations I’ve had with young people who are on the fence about voting seem to not yet have grasped the incredible nature of our democratic government. While, indeed, the Electoral College is less than efficient in several respects, our democratic ability to voice our opinions directly on who we want to have our nuclear codes, command our military, and become one of the most powerful political leaders in the world is a blessing. We need to stop taking for granted our rights, which so many people under other regimes around the world would kill to have. You have a voice, so you should use it.
Regardless of your feelings about the two final candidates, one of them will be elected president. If everyone who didn’t like everything about either of the candidates chose not to vote, our history would look drastically different. While choosing “a lesser of two evils” seems to be the motto of this presidential race, actually choosing still matters immensely.
To those who say they just don’t care: I don’t believe that’s true. According to studies, it is nearly impossible for someone to be truly neutral or independent of either side of the political spectrum. This is because every single detail about your life up to now, where you lived, how your parents raised you, the schools you’ve attended, the friends you’ve made, has shaped your views and opinions. Statistically, it is almost guaranteed that one of the candidate’s platform will appeal to you more, even if just slightly, than the other candidate’s.
I know it’s hard not to get caught up in the entertainment, and in this race a sense of even comedy, that the candidates and the media stir up, but those things are not what matters when it comes down to whose name you check on Nov. 8.
It’s also important to remember that there are more than just the two main party candidates. If you take the time to research each candidate’s platforms and what they stand for morally, you’ll likely find that they have a favorable outlook on an issue that you feel strongly about, and then you’ve found a candidate you can support. You may even find yourself in the midst of a new political identity, whether it be Republican, Democrat, or third-party.
Think about how you will tell your children or grand children about the “great election of 2016”. Will your story end with, “I didn’t vote that year” or “I was apart of history”? It’s your choice and it always will be your choice, so choose.