“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” – Plato
“Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.” – William E. Simon
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Voting is one of the cornerstones to a representative democracy, such as the United States, but typically, barely half of all eligible voters actually cast a ballot. In the past four presidential elections, the following percentages of eligible voters actually voted:
- 2012 – 57.5%
- 2008 – 62.3%
- 2004 – 60.4%
- 2000 – 54.2%
That is a pretty shabby showing, if you ask me. The U.S. ranks only 31st among 35 developed nations in the world.
Why don’t people vote?
Many members of society do not vote because they believe the system is flawed. They believe that there is little to no difference between Democrats and Republicans, and they do not vote because there is a slim chance that a third-party candidate can win an election. The seven top reasons given for why people don’t vote are:
- They think their vote won’t count
- Too busy
- Registration requirements
- Lines are too long
- Don’t like the candidates
- Can’t get to the polls
All of which, of course, are easily rebutted. And, predictably, I shall do just that!
- They think their vote won’t count — This is a common excuse that’s rooted in the belief that the Electoral College chooses the President, not the voters. In reality, the popular vote in each state determines which candidate the Electoral College endorses for that state.
- Too busy — People all over the world have fought and died for the right to vote. The least we can do is carve out a few minutes to go to a polling center and cast our vote. I bet those who claim they are too busy found time to sit and watch some mindless television show!
- Registration requirements — Registration itself is painless and takes little more than the presentation of identification. These days, you can get the form online and mail in your registration. My granddaughter registered to vote for the first time this year and the entire process took all of 10 minutes. 10 minutes … I think you can find time!
- Apathy — If you are too apathetic to vote, you should also be sure to hold your complaints about the way things are run. If you don’t voice your opinion by voting, you shouldn’t have the right to voice your complaints when things don’t go the way you want them to.
- Lines are too long — In reality, voting lines are seldom long, even for high-profile presidential races. With the advent of new technology, voting is becoming easier and more efficient than ever before, and this allows voters to get in and out without having to wait in long lines.
- Don’t like the candidates — A politician’s stance on issues important to you is more important than whether or not they are likeable. Even if it’s choosing the lesser of two or more evils in your eyes, voting is still an important way for you to voice your opinion about the subjects you care about most.
- Can’t get to the polls — Advocacy groups are making it much easier to get to the polls, even for those with special needs. In addition, absentee voting allows those people who are temporarily out of the country to cast their vote remotely. As a result, claiming that you can’t get to the polls is not a very good excuse not to vote. Since I have no car at present, I will either borrow my neighbor’s car or walk the mile-and-a-half to vote, but one way or another, I will get there!
After the Constitution was signed, basically only rich white men with property had the RIGHT to vote. Women did not have the right to vote until 1920. This means that 50% of the population could not legally vote. Now add in slaves, Indians and non-property owners plus indentured servants and the number of people who could vote back then was miniscule. Many women paid a heavy price to get the right to vote, but you are ‘too busy’? Many died over the course of decades before African-Americans finally earned the right to vote, but you don’t like waiting in line, so you will throw your single vote away? An article in Time on this subject from 2014 is well worth the read.
Every election year, every vote is important, but this year is especially so. This year we are faced with two choices, one of which could very well mean the end of our democracy as we have known it. Vote your conscience, vote based on facts, vote based on whatever criteria you deem relevant, but for Pete’s sake, get off your posterior and go vote!