Voter apathy has become a serious problem in the United States. The 2016 presidential election had the lowest voter turnout in 20 years. Slightly over 55 percent of voting-age citizens cast ballots. A study done in the same year ranked the U.S. 26th out of 32 developed nations in voter turnout.
Low voter turnout is dangerous to a democracy. If few people vote, the outcome of the election may not reflect the will of the country as a whole and create policies that are detrimental to the economy, the environment, and the health of its citizens.
Demographically speaking, the younger one is the least likely he or she will vote. Conversely, the older one is the more likely he or she will vote. Accordingly, the lower the income and education, the lower the voting participation. Those voting groups with the lowest turnout have the most to lose by not voting and the most to gain by participating in the electoral process.
I often hear someone say, “My vote doesn’t matter,” or “What difference does it make?” or “Who cares?” These comments reflect a feeling of political alienation. In other words, one feels left out of the political process. This is often the result of being a cultural or political minority in certain parts of the country. For example, if a person is a Democrat who lives in a Republican majority state, he or she may not vote because they feel their vote would not make a difference in the outcome of the election.
The problem with this rationale is that when there is a significant number of voters who think this way, their abstention assures they will stay in the minority. In the 2018 mid-term elections, the outcomes of several races were determined by a few hundred votes.
Voter participation in local elections is sadly lower than in state and national elections. This is ironic because the local government has the greatest impact on our daily lives. Local government provides utilities such as drinking water and trash and sewer services. Police, fire, and ambulance are also under the purview of local government, as are libraries and parks. Yet, in municipal elections, voter turnout is in the single digits.
Our forefathers fought a revolution to establish our Constitutional Republic. People in other countries risk their lives to vote. Voting is not just a right, it is a civic responsibility. Quoting a good friend, Stan Johnson, “Be a citizen, not a subject.” Get out and vote!