For a lot of people, voting is a serious civic duty. They show up to the polls on election day, they know exactly who and what they’re voting for, and they leave the polling place with a sense of pride.
But for many others, voting can be viewed as too much of a hassle, too much pressure, or a useless endeavor. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t vote, but we believe it’s important to ensure everyone’s voices are heard on election day.
So we put together a short list of reasons why your vote really does matter—and a little bit of insight into why.
Your vote makes a difference.
It might feel like your vote won’t matter, but it will make a difference, especially in local and state elections. It’s easy to get lost in the big numbers shown on the news about federal representatives and the electoral college, but there are plenty of cases where a small number of votes have decided elections.
Consider this list of close races from NPR, including a state representative seat in 2018 that was decided by exactly one vote. Or a Vermont state Senate Democratic primary in 2017 that was determined by a single vote out of more than 7,400 total. If you look at races that were decided by a handful more votes, you’ll see plenty of examples in the last ten years, and that doesn’t even begin to cover elections in the past century!
The winner of the election will represent you anyway.
Voting for a candidate isn’t an endorsement, it’s a preference. It’s rare to agree with a candidate on every issue, but it’s important to make sure they know what issues you care about. There’s usually one candidate who represents your interests better than the others.
When you choose not to vote, you’re letting others decide who gets to make and enforce laws as your representative. There’s usually going to be one person on the ballot who’s a better fit than the others and you should play an active role in deciding who that is.
It’s never been easier to register to vote.
Most states offer the ability to register to vote online, and the process takes less than five minutes. You can vote in U.S. elections if you:
- Are a U.S. citizen
- Meet your state’s residency requirements
- Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
Elections affect your life every day.
You may not realize it, but your life is affected by government, laws, and elected representatives every day. We think that Common Cause put it best when they said:
“There is not a single aspect of daily life that isn’t affected by your government. The roads you drive on, the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the schools that teach your children, and the parks you visit — are all a function of government.”
There are people making decisions that affect your life and you have the power to choose who’s making these decisions on your behalf. They must answer to you, not the other way around.
People fought for the right to vote for a reason.
We get it. Life is complicated and it’s a struggle to fit it all into your schedule. But voting is one of the few chances you can have a direct impact on your community. There wouldn’t have been a women’s suffrage movement or a 24th amendment if voting didn’t matter.
Take advantage of the tools that your state and county provide for you. Most ballots include short summaries of candidates’ beliefs and stances on issues, as well as short descriptions of ballot measures and their effects.
If you’re having trouble deciding, consider reviewing a ballot guide before the election. Sometimes, these are available at the polling station. Try choosing your top three issues or concerns with government and look for candidates who line up with those priorities.
Every election feels like it’s going to be the most important election in American history, but one thing remains constant: Voting is an important and valuable civic right. There’s never been a better time to make sure your voice is heard.