If you are registered to vote and you are still contemplating whether or not you will use that right in the midterm elections on November 6th, this is for you. Perhaps your favorite singer hasn’t shared if or why they feel voting is important yet, or maybe you just haven’t found a reason to believe that this action you can take will actually matter. Young people are notorious for having the lowest turnout in elections. The generation considered Millennials have had the opportunity to vote in four different midterm elections (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014). Among the Millennials who were of ages 18-24 during these elections, 20% turned out to vote, on average. The post-Millennial generation has the potential to change these patterns and make the voices of young people heard by voting in the midterm elections. We have the chance to vote to make the changes we want to see happen and revolutionize the current political structure. Here are six reasons why you shouldn’t take your right to vote for granted and show up on November 6th.
1. Every vote counts.
As Oprah Winfrey recently said in a speech during a rally for the Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, "Every single one of us has the same power at the polls, and every single one of us has something that, if done in numbers too big to tamper with, cannot be suppressed and cannot be denied." No matter how insignificant your one vote feels, it holds the equivalent weight as someone else’s vote. There is power in that, if you recognize it, and encourage others to turn out and vote. No one can deny the power of voting. There are some elections that become so close, every vote truly does matter. For the midterm elections, there are 30 U.S. House of Representatives races that are considered to be “toss-ups.” These seats will determine whether or not the Republican party will maintain control of this legislative branch of government. Your vote holds the power to impact the course of federal politics and policies established by the House of Representatives.
2. Honoring the legacy of activists who fought and died for the right to vote.
We haven’t yet reached 100 years since women got the right to vote. In 1872 Susan B. Anthony attempted to vote in the presidential election and was arrested. Sojourner Truth, a former slave was turned away at a polling booth in Michigan. African American men were blocked from utilizing their right to vote due to laws like the grandfather clauses, poll taxes and literacy tests. Activist John Lewis was beaten and left with a fractured skull. Medgar Evers was shot dead in his driveway home of Mississippi. Even after the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, declaring women had the right to vote in state and federal elections, a group of African American women were beaten in 1926 by election officials while trying to register to vote in Alabama. Leaders and activists throughout history made the ultimate sacrifice so you, today, wouldn’t be faced with barriers because of the color of your skin, ethnicity, financial status or gender when registering to vote. If voting wasn’t powerful, the people who came before us wouldn’t have needed to fight so tirelessly to gain and protect that right.
3. Voting is how real change can happen in this country.
Sharing your views on social media, circulating hashtags to bring awareness to certain issues and going to protests/rallies are important ways to empower your political voice. However, there is a greater agency in bringing that passion to the polls. Voting matters not only in the expression of your individual rights, but in having a direct say in the people who decide on the laws that govern you and the people living in your community (state, city, etc.). It’s also about the national political climate, voting is not only the battle over individual candidates, but it can also have a larger effect on the balance of power on the state and federal levels. It takes a majority vote in legislative houses in most cases for policies to move forward and be enacted. Heaven Mamou, a college student at Xavier University of Louisiana says, “I’m voting because my voice deserves to be heard. Change cannot happen in silence. When people were fighting to ensure my right to vote they weren’t silent during pressing times, but instead they spoke up for what they believed. I believe I should do the same. We all should.” Unless you use your right to vote, your voice will be silenced along with all that you are passionate about.
4. To stand up for the issues that matter to you and impact your day to day life.
Whether you care about immigration issues, education, access to health care or the environment, it all has a connection to voting. The concerns you have in your local community can translate to policy reform at all levels of the system. Politics trickle down, meaning that every level of politics in some way affects the other. Macalester College student Olivia Nyman states, “I vote because my one little ballot extends so far beyond myself. I vote for the DREAMers, for the incarcerated, for the victims of voter suppression, and for the environment--all those without the opportunity to vote for themselves in the elections. For the midterms specifically, I’m voting to enforce the checks & balances system I was promised in my U.S. History class.” Think about the issues that specifically burden you and why you care about them, you can use this as a guide to how you vote. People can tell you who to vote for, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you what you want to support and stand up for.
5. It’s something to be proud of and you might regret it if you don’t.
Imagine 20 years from now, your kids are learning about U.S. History and studying past elections where the two major parties were at war for power of the federal political system. They are growing up in a world that has been shaped by the outcome of the elections that came before them. Your kid might ask you if you voted in the 2018 midterm elections, what would you want to tell them? The results of the election can change a lot, don’t wait until it’s too late to pay attention and get involved.
6. It gives politicians a reason to listen to you.
There is power in voting as a young person in this world. A lot of politicians see the numbers of how many people age 18-24 came out to the polls in the 2016 elections and it means they can afford to ignore the concerns of young people. If you don’t vote you are invisible to the political leaders who are supposed to represent you. If you don’t use that power to decide whether or not they hold that position, in their mind, you become an insignificant part of their constituency. As a result, the issues that matter to young people will not be on the radar of our lawmakers. Your representatives are more likely to address concerns of the people they know are the ones who decide the fate of elections.
Voting is more than just a right, it is an obligation for anyone who cares about the quality of life in this country. It is an expression of civic engagement. It is how you can encourage the development of laws that keep people safe and comfortable to live here, regardless of how they identify. Not showing up to the polls is a disservice to yourself as an American citizen. It is a privilege to be able to contemplate the decision to have a say in any election that determines representation and the future of who holds political power. If you still cannot find a reason to vote for yourself, do it for all the people who will not have the chance to do this November 6th, and for the people who have no choice but to vote.
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