Why Voting Matters

Clinton, Trump pick up big wins

One of the three jobs I currently have is registering people to vote.  I will stand in front of a grocery store, mall, or college campus encouraging, or berating, people to register.  There was even an occasion where I visited the Long Beach Civic Center and registered the homeless and members of the Crips, folks who should want to see change more than anyone but are often the least likely to vote.

Granted, I can understand why those infrequent voters wish to stay out of this year’s election.  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are undeniably the most unpopular presidential candidates in modern American history.  And why shouldn’t they be?  Donald Trump is a misogynistic human bottle of Tang, and Hillary Clinton seems keen to make her life as difficult as possible.  Still, barring a third party or protest vote, these are your two choices, and it is your civic duty to vote for one of these candidates.

But how did they become the nominees if they are so incredibly disliked by the electorate.  Contrary to Trump’s claims of a “rigged system”, the hold the political parties, or whoever, have on the American voter is at its weakest state within the last eighty years.

The United States’ voter turnout is embarrassing compared to other industrialized countries.  During the 2016 primary season, only New Hampshire had a turnout of over 50%, although Wisconsin did come very close.  This was actually better than 2012’s primary turnout, and yet still completely embarrassing.

There are many reasons why people don’t vote in this country.  And given how many excuses I hear on a daily basis on why, I decided to break down the most common refrains and explain why you’re a moron.

1. My vote won’t matter

Wrong.  This year’s election could certainly give one reason to have that feeling.  However, the most common followup I hear is that those “in charge” will put in whoever they want into the office, anyway.

One man, one vote.  It doesn’t matter how rich you are, how successful you’ve been, what skin color you have, or what’s in between your legs: you get the same amount of voting power as the next guy.  Sure, the rich white dummies can flood the airwaves with whatever they want, but none of that has to take a hold of your own views and decisions unless you want them to.  Not every election has candidates as despicable as the top two running this year, but based on television ads alone, you’d suspect anyone running for office was exactly as crooked or evil.

Roughly half of Americans vote during a presidential election (53.6% in 2012), and significantly fewer return to the polls during any other election.  Belgium had an 87.2% turnout in 2012.  For those of you that don’t quite grasp math, I’ll help you out.  In America, out of ten people, five will not vote for president, whereas a country only known for waffles and chocolates can turn out nine out of ten.

Donald Trump recently stated that low voter turnout will be the key to his victory in this presidential race.  Think about that statement for a minute.  Donald Trump is hoping that you don’t behave like you love your country and practice in its democratic process so he can win.  Beyond that, why do you suspect that those who decide to stay home on election day would have been voting for Hillary?

Republicans have been very successful employing a two-pronged system to keep certain demographics from being able to vote by applying roadblocks for them.  The first, gerrymandering, is the realigning of a political district in favor of a certain party.  Although both parties have been guilty of this in the past, the Republicans have had much more success in recent years.  What happens is a district is designed to be a strong hold for a certain party by minimizing the areas least likely to vote that way.  If you have a large rural congressional district without large cities, you will typically find that Republicans sweep almost every office.  However, if there’s one heavy concentration of Democratic voters somewhere in that district, races impacted may tilt either way.  The controlling party will then move the political boundary around that concentration of Democratic voters so that particular district is now a stronghold.  In this example, Democratic voters may feel so disenfranchised due to their incredibly diminished chances of viability in the area, they simply don’t vote at all in the future.

The second method used is impeding the right to vote.  Some of you may have heard Trump supporters suggesting that we repeal the 19th amendment.  That’s just crazy, and not quite what I’m referring to.

In many places with a Republican majority, states have instituted many policies aimed at making it more difficult for people to cast a ballot.  One major part of these policies has been a requirement that a voter have a photo ID.  Sure, sounds easy enough: if you drove to the polls, you probably have your license on you, anyway.  However, for many seniors in the south, when renewing a license, a picture is not an automatic.  It sounds strange to say, but once you’ve become so old, they just renew your license without a picture unless you specifically request it.  So for those old folks who have a perfectly valid license, they may still not get to vote due to that license having no picture.

Blacks, Latinos, homeless people, and many other minorities are also faced with issues when trying to acquire photo ID.  As a white male, I’ve personally had issues with it in the past.  In many places, budget cuts have reduced the number of accessible locations to acquire a photo ID, even stooping to humorous lows, as John Oliver shows.

In addition to the photo ID laws, there’s been a history of voters being illegally purged from voter rolls.  This became an issue during the 2000 presidential campaign when it was discovered that those with a similar name to a convicted felon were barred from being able to vote, even though they had done nothing wrong.  Because there were a lot of blacks on the list of felons, quite disproportionate to the actual percentage of blacks to whites, a lot of those who were illegally purged were…black.  Coincidentally, the administration of Florida happened to be run by Republicans.

Deadlines to register to vote are also important.  Like most people, I like to procrastinate with things I perceive has being unimportant.  As a result, many Americans decide to register to vote at the last minute, only to find that they could not register and vote in the upcoming election because they waited too long.  This year, the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, who also is a Republican, refused to extend the voter registration deadline even as Hurricane Matthew was threatening to destroy the entire east cost of the state.  Luckily, a judge saw through his ruse and extended the deadline for him.  North Carolina saw a similar issue due to the hurricane, and the Democratic Party is now suing the state to extend the deadline.

Same day voter registration is a rather convenient idea: register on the same day as the election, and then vote.  Honestly, this is how most Americans would probably register to vote: wait until the last moment possible, and then decide to get it done.  Unfortunately, only fifteen states have enacted same day voter registration, including the great state of California.

All of these roadblocks disproportionately affect minorities.  Although recent presidential elections have been swayed due to the nation’s first black president running for office, typically the whites have had the largest percentage of voter turnout, and still remains true during midterm elections.  Less than half of Latin and Asian registered voters actually turned up to the polls.  Given that over 10% of registered voters are Latin, but less than half of them are voting, that means only 1 out of 20 people are Latin and voting.  Asians actually fare worse.

The minorities discussed are also likely to be Democratic voters, especially the blacks.  But the percentage of Latinos and Asians voting Democratic have taken a sharp upswing in recent elections, which partially explains the near landslide President Obama enjoyed during his two presidential campaigns.  So the laws being passed by Republicans to curtail their ability to vote is obviously for an important reason: Democrats will start winning if people are actually allowed to vote.

But this doesn’t explain how your vote matters.  It explains some of the nasty things elected officials will try to keep you from doing it.  But out of the millions of ballots cast, how does your one vote make a difference?

Back in the day, voters did not select their party nominees.  Instead, the party decided who they wanted to represent them on the ballot, a convention was called to confirm the choice, and barring a faction’s brief disapproval, the candidate was then the nominee.  Now we take half a year to vote across the country in separate elections to decide who will be at the top of the ticket for a party.

For those who believe that the party simply gets the candidate they want, I will present a counterpoint to you.  Side note to you Bernies out there: your candidate lost because he is a socialist and people over the age of 40 simply could not stomach the massive spending increases he proposed and, for good reason, expected their taxes to go up as a result.  Sure, the party was likely actively pushing for Clinton, but she only won because she was the only credible candidate.

In 2008, the Democratic Party choice was Hillary Clinton.  Out of nowhere, a young, black senator from Illinois came in and snatched the nomination away from her.  Who was this man?  Out president, Barack Obama.  Through a message of hope and change, he presented himself in such a charismatic way, young people and other minorities galloped to the ballot boxes and voted for him as their choice.  Hillary Clinton would have to wait another eight years for her shot at the White House.

Last year, when Donald Trump announced he was going to seek the presidency as a Republican, pundits explained why he didn’t have a chance.  His polling wasn’t high enough, his policies weren’t consistent with the GOP.  Hell, he started his campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists”.  But I knew better.  Those backwoods white trash folks that we forget are still around are actively rooting for the orange man campaigning for the white man.  Those who align themselves as conservative typically have a flexible moral compass as long as their party or candidate is the one who wins.  That’s how people like Scott DesJarlais get elected: sure, he abused his ex-wife and pressured her and a patient he had an affair with to get an abortion, but he’s conservative and hates Obama.  Sure enough, those white trash folks, through feelings of disenfranchisement and fear over one day being a minority, voted to Make America White Again and toppled the GOP in the process.

Your vote actually makes more difference today than arguably at any point since the primary first began.  Through the advent of the Internet, people can, but often don’t, make reasonable and well-researched decisions on their choices for an election.  And in today’s world, do you really care who the heads of the major parties actually support?  Me, neither.

jury.jpg2. I don’t want jury duty

Back in the day, if you registered to vote, you could be selected for jury duty.  I am perhaps the one person who actually wants to be selected for it, but the idea is universally hated.  However, failing to register to vote is no longer a surefire way to avoid your duty.  If you have a state ID or driver license, you may still receive that nice letter in the mail ordering your service.  It’s kind of like my friend, Holden, thinking that not vaccinating his kids would keep them from being autistic, but the kid turned out autistic, anyway.  Even if you don’t register to vote, you can still be called into court.

3. All of the candidates suck

True.  The candidates you have to choose from for president are arguably the worse quality people since Warren Harding.  However, you have many other things to vote for.

Nine states have legal marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year.

In California, you can decide if porn actors have to use condoms when performing.  Just thing: Californians can effectively ruin porn for the rest of the world if they really wanted to.  Not to suggest that using protection isn’t a good idea, but it is incredibly unsexy.

There are local races for mayor, city and county councils, and even state assembly races.  The idea that “all politics are local” really is true.  Most of what affects you from day-to-day are the direct result of actions taken by local governments.  Flint, Michigan has a lead contamination in their water due to local and state governments refusal to address the situation.  Colorado Springs, Colorado is still wrangling with funding for road improvements that they desperately need.  Ventura, California has no legal medical marijuana dispensaries due to local ordinances forbidding their development.  The  list goes on.

Possibly the most important elections one can participate in are local school board elections.  The future of our children is, or at least should be, the highest priority.  Conservatives have already attempted to jeopardize the future of our country in order to push their revisionist agenda.  The state of Texas attempted to make their history books “more patriotic”, because telling students about all of the bad things the United States has done over the years wouldn’t be advantageous to the idea of American Exceptionalism.  JeffCo and DougCo in Colorado also attempted something similar, which prompted those responsible to be voted off the school board in the next election after a fierce public outcry.

And, of course, agencies such as the police departments are directly influenced by who you vote for.  If all the rich, racist white people get together and vote for a rich, racist mayor, typically the next police chief will be a racist person (cops don’t get paid enough for him to be rich and racist).  Of course, this would negatively affect the minorities that didn’t want that mayor.

One last argument for this excuse is simple: the main reason we have the terrible candidates we do is because people do not vote.  If more than half of Latinos and Asians voted, that small sliver of voters could completely change the electoral map.  The same can be said about white people: if more of them voted, the country would be a sea of red.

In closing, there are many other excuses I’ve heard as far as why one would not want to vote.  These are only three that have been the main excuses given, and I would love the opportunity to debunk some more.  Please leave your comments and explain why you refuse to vote, and I will try to not call you a moron.


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