When this article is published, there will be less than a week until Election Day. As someone who has never been able to vote in a presidential election before, it feels like it has been simultaneously forever and barely any time at all since 2016 where I had to sit out on voting because of my age. Being able to vote this time around is an important milestone I’ve been looking forward to since I turned 18. Though it may seem silly to attach such importance to such a small event such as voting, it’s important to remember that many people around the world don’t even get the opportunity to choose their leaders. This is why I have talked about voting so much during the past month – because I truly believe if we want to advance change in our local communities and country at large, there is no excuse for not voting.
All the way back in 1776, the founders of our country declared independence because they were ruled from afar by a tyrannical king whom they did not choose but who nevertheless had influence in almost every aspect of their lives. They instead set out to create a government that would be chosen by and responsible to the people of the United States. While the right to vote has been shamefully denied to many people, such as Black Americans and women throughout our history, the ideal we have slowly and painfully been living up to is that every American of voting age should be able to have a say in who runs their government at the federal, state and local level.
Just like there shouldn’t be an excuse for not voting, there also should be no excuse for making it harder for people to vote. We have heard almost as much news about court cases trying to restrict avenues of voting as the actual election itself. Texas has been embroiled in legal action over its governor’s action to restrict the number of ballot drop boxes in each county. Pennsylvania and South Carolina have seen court actions seeking to restrict the use of absentee ballots. These cases go against the expert consensus showing the risk of voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that such measures often just make it harder for people who are trying to cast their ballots legitimately to do so. In a democracy like the United States, we should not be trying to make it harder for legitimate voters to make their voices heard.
There may also be people who feel the political system doesn’t respond to them, that no matter who they vote for nothing will change. While the dysfunction in our political process makes these concerns valid, I would suggest not voting actually makes things worse. When you choose to refrain from participating in voting, politicians know they no longer have to take your opinions into account. Not voting, in a certain sense, is voting to have your voice ignored. Even if you don’t like any of the major parties and want to do a write-in vote, that is at least a signal of your dissatisfaction with the choices you have. And if enough voters do that in sufficient numbers, it turns into a movement large enough that politicians will have to start appealing to those voters.
So, this Election Day make it a point to get out and vote if you haven’t voted by mail or in-person absentee already, as I did. After all, it’s something we only get the chance to do every few years. Going to vote often takes less time than going to the store or driving to work. So why wouldn’t we do it? Taking some time now will decide how our country, states and cities are run for the next two to four years. I think that fact alone is worth the effort.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.