The 2020 election is one that we are going to remember forever. This may be because of our choice of candidates, the fact that it was during a global pandemic or because of historic voter turnout numbers. But let me just say this— if you are eligible, yet chose not to cast your vote in the 2020 election, you have zero right to complain about the next four years, regardless of which way the votes fall.
This year, You could have voted via absentee ballot either dropped off in the mail or at any local polling site, in-person via curbside vote or in-person as you normally would with CDC guidelines in place. I’m telling you this to remind you that voting is supposed to be easy. By no means is the voting process perfect, but if anything, this year took more measures so everyone at least had the chance to vote.
The U.S. Elections Project recorded that as of Oct. 29, around 79 million people had cast their vote in the 2020 election. In 2016, only about 47.2 million people cast their votes during the early voting period. And with today being election day, there are still many more votes to be counted—who knows what the final count is going to look like.
Of course, those numbers look pretty good on paper, however, there are still people that actively choose not to vote. These people happen to be young people. It is a fact that our elders outvote us. According to the U.S. News & World Report, in 2018 only 30% of eligible 18-24 year-old voters made it to the voting booth, versus the 64% of ages 65 and up that made it out. I mean, young people tend to be the first ones to protest, start a petition or use their voice on social media platforms. So why don’t we vote?
Well, we are one stubborn generation. We don’t like to conform. We like to stand out. We don’t want our only personality trait to be our political affiliation. Obviously, that does not go for everyone, especially not the boomers trapped in a Gen Z body, but it certainly does seem like the most logical explanation. Unfortunately, not conforming to politics can only do us more harm than good right now.
About a century ago, political scientists Charles E. Merriam and Harold F. Gosnell identified which groups of Americans have comparatively low numbers regarding voter turnout. These groups included young people, minorities, the less educated and, the poor, all of which still show low voter numbers today. Yet, it’s no secret that these are the numbers that really matter. They are not only the future of this country but also the most underrepresented by government policies.
So, as much as playing the political game may not appeal to you, we still have to. Voting is the one way we can guarantee that our voice is being heard and not muted. It’s important to be an activist on the streets, but it’s just as important to be active in the voting booth. You’re voting for more than just the president. In general elections you also vote for legislators, governor, attorney general, and the list goes on. It’s not just about picking the lesser of two evils as president, it’s about representation at the local level too.
I am sure I have not persuaded every single person reading this that voting is important. In fact, you may be dwelling on questions like, ‘I’m just one person, what does my vote actually do?’ Unfortunately, there are many people with this mentality during election seasons. According to the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, between 35-60% of eligible voters do not cast their ballot. So, you’re not just one person. Many people do not believe that their vote matters. They think that voting is only important in elections where there’s a real chance to make a difference. But news flash! Every election makes a real difference.
You may also be thinking, ‘Well what about the electoral college? Ultimately they decide the election, not me.’ While the electoral college does, in a sense, determine the outcome of the election, it is still reliant on our votes. It is true that a candidate can win the popular vote but not win the election, like what happened in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and, 2016. However, it is highly unlikely the electoral votes do not swing in the direction of the popular vote. Therefore, your vote still matters.
It is likely too late to cast your ballot in the 2020 election if you have not already done so. However, there are many more elections to come. Educate yourself and know what you’re voting for and why you’re doing it. Don’t get me wrong, you do have the choice whether or not to vote. But voting is a privilege, one that many people would risk their lives to have. So if you’re privileged enough to ignore your right to vote, remember that voters aren't just voting on policies that affect themselves, but also that affect their community. They're not just voting for constitutional rights but also human rights. They're voting to have people in office that represent them as best as possible.
Who you vote for is personal, but whether you vote is not. It is our civic duty as American citizens, so do it.