By the time this column is published, our country will be just over a month away from an election that has been talked about for a very long time. Ever since Donald Trump’s win in the Presidential election of 2016, endless talk ensued about whether he would win another term or be defeated at the polls. Voters on both sides have been highly motivated, sharing news stories online, getting friends and family registered to vote and donating money to their favored side. Based on how much we’ve heard about politics in these past four years, I wouldn’t be surprised if voter turnout Nov. 3 ends up being one of the highest percentages in recent memory. Seeing all of this engagement now, I wonder why voting and elections aren’t always a top priority.
I certainly recognize the stakes in this election are very high. Whatever you think of Trump, his policies and attitude have brought out strong reactions from many people of all walks of life in our nation. The Covid-19 pandemic, which still continues to rage, and has now killed more than 200,000 Americans, has shown how necessary steady and fact-based leadership is. And the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon for women’s rights and a trailblazer in the legal profession, has illuminated how far we have come as a society and where we still need to go.
This crazy year has made it obvious that elections and politics are able to affect every aspect of our lives. It’s easy to think actions in Washington and St. Paul do not have a direct impact on us. But as we have seen, especially in the past few months with Covid-19, that myth should be forever shattered. Who we elect to be president, governor, senator, and even mayor, matters. Every individual and political party who runs for office has different ideas for what she/he would do if elected. If we want politicians to work for us and make good policy that benefits our communities, state and country, we have an obligation as citizens to make sure we’re voting in the right people for the job.
It is heartening to me to see this year many more avenues than usual are being employed to get people to the polls. Social media apps and websites have prominent announcements with links for users to register to vote. Radio and television ads from a variety of sources also have stressed the importance of voting. Notably, the NBA has instituted a campaign, led by its players, to promote voting among fans and even to use stadiums as polling places.
These are the kinds of things we should be doing every time an election rolls around. Whether it’s for national or local office, the focus should be on educating people about the election and making it clear that people can vote early in person or absentee, as well, if they choose. In a democracy like the United States, voting is a right, and we should be doing everything possible to make it possible for people to vote. After all, our politicians represent those of us who vote, and so if we want politicians to represent everyone in the country, we need everyone to vote.
So while it is encouraging to see the energy and passion that is in the political process this year, I hope 2020 teaches all of us to keep this going long into the future. Politics shouldn’t be abstract happenings that go on far away. Our government officials make decisions every day that have immense consequences right here at home. The best way to make sure good decisions are made and hold politicians accountable for bad ones is to vote and make our voices heard.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.