- Wally Lan
Why people must exercise their right to vote
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
In a nation built on democratic values, it is important that we, as citizens of our country, hold ourselves accountable and exercise our right to vote.
As we approach the upcoming presidential elections, we once again are reminded of the debate of voting responsibilities. Voter turnout is defined as the percentage of eligible voters who participate in an election. And you may be led to believe that in a nation that values individual rights—to the extent of protesting against wearing masks in a pandemic that has infected nearly 5.5 million people in our nation—that there exists 100% voter participation. But that is far from reality by devastating proportions, as the turnout for 2016 stood at 55.7%.
Not participating in elections is ironically an indirect form of voting. Oftentimes, people choose not to vote due to their dissatisfaction with the candidates. This ultimately is a way of protesting against all the candidates.
Let’s take a different situation. You decide to not vote, yet you dislike the current president. Through abstaining, voter turnout decreases, and this in turn favors the incumbent. Those candidates who held the potential to represent your thoughts and beliefs do not get into office, leading you to question how things could get better.
And now I would like to address the most common, overused argument against voting: voting is pointless because there is zero chance that one person’s vote can make a difference in an election. The premise of this argument is that you should not vote because it will not decide the outcome of an election. This is an extremely binary way of thinking.
Two words: popular sovereignty. This is the notion following the theory that government is created by and subject to the will of the people, otherwise known as consent of governed. Through this, my vote plays a role in my community, which ultimately plays a bigger role in an election. Sure, my single vote may not determine the election, but my vote, which counts toward my community will.
There is also the herd mentality, the tendency for people within a large group to follow the actions or thoughts of the majority. Imagine if I stopped voting. Most likely, I would express my reasons for doing so to my family, close friends, and even co-workers. Eventually this thought process widespread into a domino effect, causing a community to stop expressing interest in voting.
A vote is more than filling out a paper; it determines the future and public policy in all the branches of our federal government: executive, judicial, and legislative. Public policies have substantial impact on our daily lives, whether that be work, shopping, housing, or education. This has been evident throughout history, exemplified with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Affordable Health Care Act—both passed through votes on how Congress acts on the people’s interests.
So while you may believe that your vote microscopically impacts the election, it is also vital to recognize that change can never happen without voting. Our government operates on the basis of our satisfaction with their performance, and if we are not satisfied them, we have the opportunity—with every election—to fire them in favor of one who will represent your core values and beliefs during their term.
Remember, your vote matters.