Last week, I sent a rather stuffed envelope back to the United States. It contained both a signed form and another, smaller envelope, in which was folded one piece of paper bearing seven black X’s. While it is true that I have voted in the past (in local elections, or for Congressmen, and so on), I had never before influenced the presidential outcome. My grandparents, undoubtedly, have a long list of presidents for whom they voted (or voted against), dating back many decades. My parents, too, have accumulated something of a voting record. For me, that list officially begins this year: 1. 2012: Barack Obama.
|Yup, that’s the real ballot, currently en route to Pennsylvania.|
As a Political Science major, I often feel as though I’m supposed to be voting, and helping other people vote. In reality, it’s probably the other way around; I began studying politics because of my preexisting interest and involvement. But whatever the reason, I do feel compelled to help encourage participation in the democratic process. Voting, after all, is one of the easiest ways we have of shaping world history.
Studying abroad this semester is teaching me a lot, but one of the things I’ve been surprised with already is how prominent a role the United States seems to play in world affairs. I suppose I always assumed a large bias in the American education system, such that, in reality, the U.S. wasn’t as influential and important to those living outside it. But here in Britain, at least, students follow the U.S. presidential election, talk about actions the U.S. military does or does not take, and feel the impact of U.S. economic shocks to a highly globalized system of world trade. Or, at least, that’s what they talk about in my “War & Justice” and “International Political Economics” courses. There may be a sampling error there.
|“We choose to go to the moon…” – JFK|
My point, though, is that the decisions made by U.S. leaders and citizens really seem to affect the world. Think about the revolutions inspired by our War of Independence, or the impact of U.S. involvement on ending World Wars I and II, or the space race to the moon. Those decisions were made by people we elected… and a difference in election outcome could have well led to different results.
We can’t know what kind of big, world-changing decisions the next U.S. President will make. But there’s more than just the presidency at stake. I just voted for U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressman, Attorney General, Auditor General, State Treasurer, and State Representative. And there are plenty of small, local decisions that each of those people are going to make, affecting the future of gay rights, the death penalty, clean energy… the list goes on and on.
On the one hand, I have friends who are eager to vote. People have asked me for help with absentee ballots on Facebook, and I’ve even helped a flat-mate register to vote just the other day. But on the other hand, I know that some of my friends, and lots of people my age, aren’t planning on voting. So here’s my plea: Vote.
If you’ve ever said, “This is stupid, why don’t they do it like such-and-such”, now’s your chance to put someone in office who can do things a better way. If you’ve ever thought, “This isn’t fair!”, now’s your chance to help make it fairer. If you’ve ever had any opinion, at all, at any time, please: vote.
It’s not just about changing the outcome of an election. When your local representative goes to the state capital to decide whether or not to ban gay marriage in your state, or to fund a college grants program, or to increase the penalties of drunk driving, that representative has access to voting data. He can see how many college students voted, how many women voted… and even how many of them voted for him. And those numbers just might have an impact.
It’s not just about changing the minds of our leaders, either. When we participate, we become a part of history. We become the trend that sweeps the nation, turning the tide of the country’s attitude, if not in this election alone, then as a rising force over a series of elections.
So I’m asking everyone I know to vote. And I’m going to be posting some pretty snazzy reminders on Facebook. And maybe, just maybe, a few extra people will vote in this election.
|(example of a snazzy voting reminder)|
Of course, some people still think that their one vote doesn’t matter. In fact, an estimated 90 million Americans will think that their votes can’t make a difference on November 6th.
I think that’s kind of funny, really. I mean, I’m no Math major, but what do you want to bet those 90 million votes would make a difference?