The importance of voting

by Jose Rojas

Voting. A word defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “an expression of opinion or preference.” A concept well known by all Americans, as it should be, considering our many things about this country are decided by elections. President, judges, mayors and governors are all voted upon by the general population, and if not, they are decided by elected officials.

Considering how much of our country’s government revolves around voting and elections, wouldn’t it make sense for Americans to make their opinions heard through ballots?

Interestingly enough, that isn’t what is happening today. The 2012 US Census Bureau says that only 63 percent of all people registered to vote, did. That doesn’t seem that bad, until you realize that only 72 percent of America is even registered to vote. In reality, only 45 percent of America is even voting in these elections, even though they could determine the fate of the country.

The figure was also below the 60.4 percentage level of the 2004 election but higher than the 54.2 percent turnout in the 2000 election.

Despite an increase of over eight million citizens in the eligible population, turnout declined from 131 millions voters in 2008 to an estimated 126 millions voters in 2012 when ballots were tallied. Some 93 millions eligible citizens did not vote.

Personally, I believe that everyone should vote, because everyone has an opinion. In America’s democracy, we value our ability to choose who is in office, and revel in the fact that we have a say in what goes on in the political world. However, when less than half the country is voting regularly, we have to ask ourselves: is this really a democracy?

Yes, many people will argue, of course it is. We still have elections, and the country is run by the president. But look at it this way: the whole purpose of democracy is for every person to have a say in what goes on. When less than half the country is voting, not everyone’s voice is being heard. And when not everyone is being heard, that’s not a democracy.

What concerns me is the fact that most of the people who don’t vote are young, only 18 to 24 years old. Even though many people are opinionated and have different beliefs and ideals, most Millennials (individuals 18 to 29 years old) have removed themselves from the electoral process.

When I first heard these statistics, I was shocked. We always assume that everyone votes, but that is not the reality. What I found hardest to believe was the fact that only about half of the Millennials actually actively voice their thoughts. I personally cannot wait until I am old enough to have a say in the workings of the government, and I hate the thought that people who have the opportunity abuse it.

Because of this, and the fact that voters quite literally have the future of the country in their hands, I urge any and all people reading this to realize how big a part of democracy voting is, and to use the opportunities given to them to make a difference in America.

Voting is not only our right, it is our obligation. Just as we’ve been told since elementary school, voting is an important right we have a duty to exercise. Many governments around the world don’t allow their citizens to be part of their democratic elections. However, we live in a democratic country where we reserve right to select our government leaders, and the health of our democracy relies on our votes.

Many college students believe their vote will not make any difference, but the recent history of votes has shown that elections can be decided by a handful of votes. In fact, many local contests end in ties each election year, with winners being determined by coin flip. Taking the initiative to vote can help prevent someone else making decision for us.

Many people vote while thinking of other constituencies: older folks, people without health insurance and the like. But very few voters are focused specifically on the needs of college students. When issues like students’ loan rates, educational standards and admissions policies are on the ballot, who else is better qualified to vote than those currently experiencing the implications of such initiatives?

Despite conventional attitudes about college students not being in the “real world,” much of your daily life involves very serious and important decisions. You manage your finances, you are taking charge of your education and career, you are doing your best everyday to improve yourself through higher education. In essence, you are becoming an adult. Your vote, then, matters most because you are finally able to cast it. Go voice your opinion on issues, policies, candidates and referendums.

No matter your race, gender, or age, if you are 18 years old, you should be a registered voter. Stand up for what you believe in. Vote!

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