From my point of view, I can complain about everything I do and don’t like because I voted. The very act of my vote emboldens me to speak my mind. It’s American exceptionalism personified. So why do so many among us choose not to vote? And why does it seem like voting is not as easy to do as it used to be?
Following President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection when he raced against Mitt Romney, the Republican National Committee (RNC) conducted an audit and concluded a more concerted effort to reach minorities was needed. Faced with an ever-changing population, the RNC believed they could win more elections if more policies included Latin Americans in particular. Instead, local governments began implementing voter ID laws throughout the country.
Combined with low enthusiasm during midterm elections, these laws inadvertently suppressed voter turnouts among minorities. According to the U.S. Election Project, which reports electoral data, only 35.9 percent of registered voters cast their vote. This is likely the reason Congress, with an 11 percent approval rating at the time, was reelected at 96 percent.
For those who say their vote doesn’t count, imagine if voter turnout percentage was in the high 80s or low 90s. It is evident there is action in inaction and, more specifically, money and power is maintained in the status quo.
This time, however, even the status quo is threatened. Bolstered by their recent success, more voter ID laws have been implemented, and thus are heavily debated. In summer 2016, for example, the Federal Appeals Court struck down a North Carolina law as unconstitutional for unfairly targeting minorities. At issue is the resulting reduction in minority voter turnout as a consequence of the undue hardship.
While many similar laws have either been struck down or voted against, 10 states will still have such legislation in place during this year’s election cycle. How do you think those states will vote? Do you think laws favoring minorities and low-income voters will pass?
It is probable these laws became laws thanks in no small part to low voter turnout. The thing I cannot seem to understand is why. If you know someone doesn’t want you to vote and is actively working to suppress your vote, why would you not vote? Faced with those circumstances, it is practically un-American not to vote.
History remembers those who have been beaten, attacked, and ultimately died for the right to vote. For their struggles, the country today is more energized, whether it’s a protest, a rally or a town hall. The current atmosphere is different, and the differences are playing out in uncomfortable ways.
The opinions are louder and a little jagged. The insults are more personal and much more “us vs. them.” The news tells stories of cop killings, riots, terrorist attacks and corporate takeovers. It’s enough to make anybody pessimistic, apathetic and, worst of all, numb. Indeed it even seems at times like we are locked in a perpetual campaign from one ineffective term to the next. But we must not get discouraged. The glass is half full.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton famously said, “Follow the trend lines, not the headlines.” Today, you will find unemployment is down, wages are rising and the U.S. is rebuilding. You will also hear real national conversations about criminal justice reform, debt-free college education and immigration. You will even find despite messages spun on every news channel on all the turmoil across the globe, the world is experiencing its fewest armed conflicts since World War II.
So why is it important to vote? Learn about the issue, research the pros and cons, and then cast your vote. If the vote still doesn’t go your way, then you have the right to complain.