We’re in another election cycle right now in the United States, the 2022 midterm elections are right around the corner in November, and then in another two years, in 2024, we’ll get to elect a new President.
It’s almost a certainty that you’ve heard or seen political ads from various candidates asking for your support; your vote.
Alongside those ads, you’ll no doubt hear ads from groups and organizations telling you how important it is to go out and vote as well.
But with all of that “noise” and seeing large groups of people showing support for this candidate or that candidate, it might make you wonder if your vote counts at all, does your vote make a difference?
In today’s article, we’ll tackle that question for you, does voting make a difference?
What is voting?
As defined by Dictionary.com, voting is a formal expression of opinion or choice made by an individual or body of individuals, especially in an election.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to talk about and refer to voting with regard to voting in a political election(s).
So, to keep it simple, voting is when a person or persons voluntarily goes to a polling place/station or sends in a vote via a mail-in ballot to cast their ballot or vote for a particular candidate, party, or measure.
- Voting for the President of the United States of America
- Voting for a member of Congress, either a Senator or Representative for the House of Representatives.
- Voting for a State Official like the Governor or State Congress member, also a Senator or Representative.
- Voting for a local official, like the Mayor of a city, city council member, or local Sheriff.
- Finally, voting for a specific measure. For instance, your local town wants to outlaw free parking downtown. They’ll put it on a ballot measure and in the next election, local voters can vote for or against the measure.
Why do we vote?
We vote, here in the U.S., because that’s how we choose our leaders, from local leaders all the way to the President of the United States.
Our form of Government is a Democracy and a Republic, Representative Democracy would probably be the easiest way to describe it but it can get confusing, here’s a page that breaks it down really well.
So, again, to keep things simple we’re both forms of government. We’re a democracy because depending on what we’re voting for, we vote directly for it. An example would be voting for a local or state-wide ballot measure.
We’re a Republic because we vote for leaders at the local, state, and federal levels to assume roles as elected leaders to then vote and act on issues in our best interests. This way, as a people, we don’t have to worry about the day-to-day business of government. They do so on our behalf.
Why is it important for citizens to vote?
It’s important for citizens to vote because that’s how they participate in the democratic process. By voting, the citizens have a voice in the government and how they are governed.
Conversely, the elected leaders, by having been elected by the people, should do their part to keep the citizens’ best interests in mind.
So, basically, the easy way to look at this is, if you vote, you’re taking an active role in how the government affects you, both locally and federally. If you choose not to vote, you’re allowing others to govern you with no say in the matter.
Okay, but does voting make a difference?
In short, yes. Your individual vote can be one of the many votes needed for a measure to pass or fail or for a person to be elected or not elected.
What seems to trip people up is the Presidential elections and the electoral college. The presidential election is the singular different election by comparison in the United States.
Unlike other elections, in which a simple popular, winner-take-all, vote occurs and a winner is declared, in the Presidential election, you don’t vote for the candidate directly, you actually vote for an elector or set of electors and they vote for the President.
It can get confusing, which is understandable and whether or not this is fair, is outside of the scope of this article. This confusion is most likely one of the reasons why people believe that “their vote doesn’t count”.
Especially if you live in a historically red or blue state, indeed, your vote would not “count” toward the electoral count for that state, as it’s likely going to go red or blue based on past elections.
However, anything can happen. A state can flip! Take Georgia in the 2020 election for instance! It went blue for the first time since 1992.
There is no way that would have happened if voters would have stayed home thinking their vote didn’t count.
Now, when you look at literally every other election type in the country, like the midterm elections or voting for a governor, etc. Your vote is crucial.
Again, unlike voting for the President, when you vote in the midterms and state and local elections, you are voting directly for a candidate! Every vote will be counted and ultimately decide the fate of that candidate.
To make things even more clear, Presidential elections always bring out the largest voter turnout, roughly 60% of eligible voters, whereas that number goes down to 40% for the midterms and those numbers only dwindle as you go down to state-wide and local elections.
So, here are multiple other elections that are going on, in which your vote directly affects the outcome and fewer voters go out to vote in these equally important elections.
Is voting a right or a privilege?
Voting in the United States of America is a right. It’s a right provided to all by the constitution. To be more precise, several amendments within the constitution that speak specifically to voting and who can vote.
Simply put, you as an American, have a fundamental right, protected by law, to vote and there are laws in place in case anyone tries to deny you that right.
So, then why do some say it’s a privilege? That’s a great question and the subject of fierce debate in the U.S. today.
Most Democrats, like myself, would argue that voting is a right, full stop. However, most Republicans will say that it’s a privilege, with “responsibilities”.
This is a very interesting argument and speaks to plenty of voter suppression attempts but it goes outside of the scope of this article today and I’ll talk about it in a later article.
But for the purpose of today’s article, I’ll say this, Voting in the U.S. is a privilege, in that you are lucky enough to be a citizen of a country in which free and fair elections are held and it’s your privilege to vote.
What do I need to vote?
While voting in the U.S. is a right and free to do, you still have to have some things in order to vote. You have to be of age, in the U.S. it’s 18 years of age or older.
You also have to be registered to vote, usually, you can do this when you get a new Drivers’ License or you can go to Vote.org and follow the steps there to register to vote.
Once you’re registered, gather your documents and head on down to a polling place, and cast your ballot! Easy peasy!
What are my rights as a voter?
Your rights as a voter are straightforward, so long as you are of legal age and registered to vote you can vote, it is your right!
Now, there are things like citizenship and criminal records to keep in mind, researching ahead will help answer those questions. I won’t go into those specifics because of how individual they can be.
However, generally speaking, you’ll want to make sure that you’re registered and at the right polling place, with the appropriate ID for your state. If you have any problems, do not leave and call 1-866-687-8683 to speak with someone to sort out your issue in real time.
What do I do if someone tries to stop me from voting?
There’s plenty you can do if someone is trying to stop you from voting. First, make sure you’re registered to vote, next make sure you have the right paperwork and forms of ID to vote in your state.
Finally, make sure you’re in the right polling place to cast your vote. If you’re confused or unsure of your polling place, check here or call your local city or county for help.
If those are not the reasons you’re being denied to vote, then now we’re talking about voter intimidation, suppression, or coercion. All of which are illegal.
What are some examples of voter suppression, intimidation, or coercion?
Voter suppression is a big thing and unlikely something you can do about directly on election day but here are the examples. Let’s say there’s a large area of a city or metropolitan area of a group of voters. It would make sense that they have a polling place in an easy-to-access part of their town.
In an effort to suppress those votes, the powers that be would place their polling place far away, where you would have to drive a long distance to access it.
Voter intimidation or coercion is much more in your face and something you can do about on Election Day. An example of voter intimidation would be something like a group of people blocking you or others from entering a polling place.
A group of people cursing at you while you wait in line. People walk up to you while you wait to vote and question you about who or what you plan to vote on or about. Looking over your shoulder etc. all of those things are voter intimidation.
An example of voter coercion would be giving you money to vote for a specific person or cause. Spreading false rumors or impersonating a poll worker.
Finally, there are direct threats. Like saying you or your family will be deported if you vote or saying your child won’t make the school sports team, etc.
What can I do if I experience voter intimidation or coercion on election day?
The first thing to know is that no one can stop you from voting. Do not leave your polling place, so long as you’re in the right location. Ask a poll worker for help, if you’re being intimated or coerced openly.
Next, if that does not help, call 1-866-687-8683 right away and someone can help report an incident and help you to vote. Finally, if violence is seen or if you feel threatened, call the local police right away.
If this person or people are doing this to you, then they’ve likely done it to others and it’s against the law. The police can handle the situation.
Should I be afraid to vote?
No. Absolutely not. I myself have been voting since I was 18 and I’ve never seen anything crazy happen at a polling place but that’s been my experience alone.
I cannot speak for others but I wanted you, the reader, to know what your rights are and where to seek help if something were to happen.
But the chances of anything happening are slim to none but just in case, make sure your phone is on you and at the ready!
Is it illegal not to vote?
No. It is not illegal to not vote in the U.S. There is no law in the United States that forces anyone to vote in any election. Whether they be local, state-wide, or federal elections. Remember, your right to vote is simply that, a right.
You have the right to participate or not.
What happens if you don’t vote but you’re registered?
Nothing. If you’re registered to vote in the U.S., it means that you can go vote on election day if you choose to. If you choose not to, nothing will happen to you.
You won’t be placed on a “list”, no one will come looking for you. The terminator won’t show up at your door or anything like that.
But, you would have willingly decided to allow others to make decisions on your behalf, without your say so and that can’t be good to think about, right?
Why should I care about voting?
Simply put, you should care about voting because it’s a right, your fundamental right to speak your mind, and your wants and needs in elections that will affect you, your family, your friends, and fellow Americans.
Despite what some people say, that “your vote doesn’t count”, you’ve learned that there’s only one election type in the U.S. in which you, as a voter, don’t vote directly for a candidate or measure and that’s when you vote for President.
Otherwise, when you vote for congressional candidates, gubernatorial candidates, and local politicians, your vote is a vote directly for that person. And you’ve learned that turnout for those elections is dismally low.
So, if anything your vote matters more in those elections because otherwise, a very small amount of people are electing those candidates to office.
Finally, the United States was founded on a desire to vote. Remember “No taxation without representation“?
If you don’t remember, the colonists felt that it was inequitable and more importantly unjust, that the British were able to impose taxes without allowing colonists to be able to serve in Parliament. (The British equivalent of the U.S. Congress)
They went to war, against a world superpower, just because they could not have a vote! That, as an American, is your heritage.
Now, I’ll grant you, U.S. history isn’t perfect, pretty, or all-around just but regardless of that, you can change that with a simple action, voting. It’s your right, provided to you under the constitution and yes, it matters.
Quotes about voting to help you get excited about voting!
“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 Delano Roosevelt.
“For this Nation to remain true to its principles, we cannot allow any American’s vote to be denied, diluted, or defiled. The right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties, and we will not see its luster diminished.” – Ronald Reagan.
And finally, since you’re wondering if voting makes a difference, keep this quote in mind:
“We do not have a government by the majority. We have a government by the majority who participate.” – Thomas Jefferson.
Rounding this out
Does voting make a difference? Yes! If you vote in an election like the midterms or local or state-wide elections, then every vote is counted directly for a candidate and a majority winner is elected. Every vote counts toward their win.
Even if your choice loses, if the vote was close, the winning candidate and the party will know that they have to “watch their backs” or else they could lose that seat or position next election cycle.
And while yes, in Presidential elections you don’t vote directly for the candidate, a state can always be flipped, and even if there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that that could happen, if there’s a big enough turnout, I promise you, the winning party will take notice.
Political parties don’t like to feel uncomfortable, they want to know that they’re “safe” in certain cities and states. Make them uncomfortable, make them see your vote. It’s your legal means of putting them on notice. We, the people, are watching. They work for us, don’t let them forget.