Every single year in early November, we have the chance in some capacity to vote in an election. I remember my first visit to the polls in 1992 when I was 4; President George H. W. Bush was running against Bill Clinton, and my mom showed me how she cast her vote with the buttons in the booth, also explaining to me what voting meant.
The routine of this annual freedom to cast our vote in some level of government can numb us to a truly amazing opportunity we Americans often take for granted. The Economist reports that less than 50 percent of the global population lives in a country where their vote is counted and has full value; thus most people in the world are denied the basic human right to choose their leadership in free elections. In a government by the people for the people, voting is the bedrock from which democracy and freedom stem and is the way in which governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
I was disturbed to learn in the Freedom in the World 2022 report that democracy is in its 16th year of decline internationally, with a corresponding expansion of authoritarian rule. We Americans should be more motivated than ever to engage with ours. Presidential elections garner the most attention and excitement and yet typically only draw 50-60 percent of eligible American voters, putting us far behind other developed nations; in one report, we ranked 30 out of 35 countries surveyed. The 2020 election drew a record of 67 percent, and yet 80 million eligible voters stayed home. According to NPR, the top five reasons were, respectively, not being registered to vote, not being interested in politics, not liking the candidates, a feeling their vote wouldn’t have made a difference, or being undecided on for whom to vote. Glaringly absent is “difficulty voting,” which did not seem to be an impediment. NPR also reports that these 80 million nonvoters tend to be less engaged in their communities, are less likely to volunteer, and have less confidence in local as well as national government.
The smaller the election, the less buzz and press it tends to receive, and yet these local-level elections can have surprisingly greater effects on our day-to-day lives. Also, here we have the opportunity to engage with the candidates — speak with them, see them in person instead of only on a screen, and perhaps get a better peek at the person behind the politician.
The right to vote is arguably what every American who has shed blood to defend the Constitution has fought and died for. The freedom to choose how we are governed is an inalienable right for which our Founding Fathers were willing to risk everything in a violent struggle against the greatest power on earth. We all have opinions — and in many cases strong opinions! — as to how things should be done, so what excuse do any of us have for not taking advantage of the one small action we can each do about it, and so easily?
So, I challenge you to make your voice heard in a few days at the polls on Nov. 8. Your vote is worth it.