This past week, citizens of the United States were called upon to perform a civic duty that had been fought for by countless generations. For many, it was the first time many young men and women were called upon to vote. I myself performed this duty for the first time and I was struck by how exciting it felt to participate in a noble tradition, one that embodies the principles our nation founded itself upon: the principle of a person’s right to representative government. We are taught the history of these principles from a young age. From the ancient democracy of Athens to the Magna Charta of England to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, we see a legacy of noble men building a tradition of human rights and creating governments to preserve them, all protected through the sacrifices of those who believed in that tradition.
And yet, here we sit in the 21st Century with about half the population throwing in their ballots, many incentivized by stickers, a social media postings, or multitudes of political advertisements goading, encouraging, and nigh on begging them to vote. Statistics show approximately 60% of eligible voters participated in the 2016 Presidential Elections (1). A race that was polarizing enough to cause riots and online campaigns against both sides, a race most if not all citizens are aware of had only 60% participation, slightly over half (2). The midterms of 2016 show even worse trends with only 36.7% eligible voters participating (3). Some may contend that this amount is the most that we can reasonably expect from our citizens, but when there are other countries with almost 80 percent voluntary turnout, I question how unreasonable it is to ask for higher turnout in the United States (4).
My intent is not to shame the people of America for not voting or into voting more. It would be a waste of time to do so when multiple online advertisement campaigns aim to do just that. What I really wish to do is question why this situation is the one we face.
My instinctual answer is that many people have simply given up and fail to see the point. To many people, politics is a dirty game they as voters never can win, but when they do decide to vote anyways, few politicians are going to keep whatever promises they make or there simply is no politician they like well enough to give a vote. When they finally choose a candidate, people are still discouraged because the election is so remarkably huge that there is little to no way one singular vote can affect it, so people throw their hands up in frustration, not knowing why they should bother. For many, voting is less of a civic duty or privilege and more an expression of strong personal opinion and emotion and a futile one at that.
For me to propose a solution would be futile, but that is not my intention in this piece. This piece of writing is meant only to stir thoughts in my readers about why many people have pushed aside such a valuable right. If my reader is inclined, perhaps they may think of a solution as well.
(1) United States Census Bureau. Web. www.census.gov.
(4) "Election Guide: Democracy Assistance & Election News." International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Web. http://www.electionguide.org/