By Kimberly Maske-Mertz
Surely it comes as no surprise that there is much at stake in this election year. Issues such as healthcare reform, nominations for the Supreme Court, immigration, racial equality, and women’s and LGBT rights have all dominated the headlines, and this election cycle has proven one of the most divisive in U.S. history.
Even more disconcerting is the constant barrage of news stories devoted to negative attacks on the candidates–specifically those that revolve around Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Whether these stories rail against Trump’s often questionable business practices or Clinton’s emails, it is safe to say that the closer we get to Election Day, the further divided we become and the less confident we feel that our votes will make a bit of difference.
In the past few weeks, I have engaged in conversations with many of my friends and family members regarding the upcoming election. Sadly, one of the most common things I have heard is this: “I refuse to vote in this election.”
Some other reasons include:
“I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.”
“The candidate I supported in the primary isn’t in the running.”
“It doesn’t matter who wins. Nothing will ever change.”
However, the one that disturbs me the most: “My vote doesn’t count anyway.”
With all the hype about “rigged elections” and “voter suppression,” it’s understandable why so many have such little confidence in our electoral process. It’s frightening to think that We The People may not have control over our government and who will make the biggest decisions about our lives.
But here’s the thing: We do have that control. However, it doesn’t amount to anything if We, as a majority, become complacent. Regardless of the outcome, We must exercise our constitutional right to vote in every election. One vote CAN make all the difference in the world, particularly in a close election.
I’ve also heard it said hundreds of times that a vote for an Independent or Third Party candidate is a “wasted vote.” Take this to heart: IT IS NOT. No vote cast in good conscience is ever wasted.
According to Pew Research Center, independent voters (those not holding a particular party affiliation) had risen to 40-percent as of 2015. Imagine this scenario for a moment: every Independent voter casts their ballot for an independently-running Bernie Sanders. Add to that the percentage of registered Democrats who voted for Sanders in the primary election, and it’s safe to assume that Sanders would win on November 8th.
Millennials and GenX–now 56-percent of the voting population according to Pew Research–are the fastest-growing voter demographic in the U.S. and more likely to vote Independent. Add to that the growing number of older generation voters who have become more and more frustrated with the status quo, and eventually change will occur. However, this will never happen unless every single eligible citizen exercises their right to vote. Every. Single. Time.
So here’s my sage advice: Educate yourself. Research all of the candidates and learn where they stand on the issues, even those at the local level. Then, cast your vote on November 8.
Positive change in our society may seem slow at times, and it may not materialize in the way you imagine (or hope) at first. However, all change–whether it’s big or small–starts with you. Embrace that power, and never doubt for a moment that your voice matters. It does.