According the US Census Bureau in 2008, only about 58.2% of the US voting age population voted in the presidential election. In 2012, that dropped to 54.87% according to the University of California’s American Presidency Project. Judging from the data the University of California provided, the average turnout since 1960 averages to about 55.39%, though my math may be faulty. This means that a significant percent of the population does not vote. This is endlessly fascinating for me. Are these people indifferent to their leaders, do they feel their vote doesn’t matter, or is it just plain laziness? Whatever reason for their apathy, it’s frightening so many people will not exercise their right to vote.
When I ask McNick students about why they will not vote I usually get similar answers. One of the most egregious complaints I have seen this political cycle has been “I don’t know anything about the candidates.” There’s a solution to that. Cut an hour out of doing homework, your hobbies, or studying to go and research the candidates’ positions. It’s not that hard, I plugged in “where do the presidential candidates stand” and according to Google, it took less than a second to get over 192,000,000 results.
“But I don’t like any of the candidates” people cry. Well life isn’t always fair, and we live in an imperfect system. But guess what? “Liking” a candidate is irrelevant, because “liking” a candidate as a person is not the purpose a candidate serves in a republic. A candidate is not there to be a cool person; they are there to promote and represent political positions and policies. Look at the net gain and effect of what a candidate will be able to achieve. This could even apply to people who have already decided who they will vote for but are uninformed on the issues. I’ve seen many people caught up in the cult of personality that surrounds Donald Trump, and to a lesser extent Bernie Sanders, who can barely tell me about what positions these candidates hold yet blindly follow them.
“It doesn’t matter who’s elected nothing will change” is another statement people throw out. This is generally a statement made by people who don’t consider the full spectrum of the US political system. At this very moment the Republicans in the senate are currently holding out on accepting a new Supreme Court judge wanting to wait until a new president comes in. If they get their way it could have drastic effects on the importance of this election. The candidate who wins will nominate a justice who fits with their political ideology which will affect many important cases that the Supreme Court sets. Making it even more important is the fact Ruth Bader Ginsburg, another Supreme Court Justice, is 83 years old and will likely retire in the near future leaving another seat open for a nomination. This is especially important given that currently the frontrunners are both set to have a senate who aren’t keen on working with them (Clinton being a Democrat and the senate being largely Republican, and Trump being Trump) leaving the Supreme Court the only branch capable of change.
“But it doesn’t matter if I vote” is an ill-informed statement. If this statement was made from a person who lived in California or Texas, it might have some validity, but I would still disagree with it. This is all irrelevant because we live in Ohio which is incredibly important in the presidential election. So important that it is a commonly said “No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio.” Ohio is a swing state with 18 electoral votes, making it the third most important swing state with only Pennsylvania and Florida having more electoral votes. Lots of electoral votes coupled with the fact the state could swing either way means that Ohioans’ votes are greatly sought after.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that voting is some glorious act of patriotism, but I am going to say it’s something much more important. It’s a choice that will affect all of us in the end and you need to value that. Go out and make that choice; don’t sit around and waste it. Let your voice be heard in politics and whoever you choose make at least some modicum of a difference in the world.