Our Electoral Engagement
The most influential act of voting for our nation is exercised through the election of the US president every four years. Things that motivate us as US citizens to vote may be beliefs, “fitting in”, campaigns, and even the idea of having an impact on one of the biggest decisions of the United States. Truthfully, when voting in the United States everyone’s vote is not even counted considering the Electoral College. So consequently, “…people think their vote makes a difference, and have this mistaken belief even though statistically it’s not the case” (Munsey). But is it important for voters to participate even though most of their votes will not truly affect the outcome of the election?
The goal of voting in the United States is to promote a general welfare in the US with a wider range of voters making decisions that will maximize this general welfare.
When citizens vote they have a sense of personal power and satisfaction knowing they have voiced their opinion. The idea of have an expressive power to vote for someone and against someone gives the voter a feeling of “personal efficacy” on our government. There has also been shown that there are health benefits from voting. Communities that often vote more are represented better and are given more attention. With this attention they can have a, “greater social capital, less crime, more connectiveness, better health, and better services” (Sanders). Obviously from voting there is an impact made on our government. By voting, individuals make decisions on countless factors including laws, budgets and public policy by choosing a President that do what is desired by the voter.
Unfortunately there is an immense amount of registered voters, but they do not even vote. They are less engaged in politics, and do not feel impactful in the election. They often do not know enough about the candidates to be able to cast a ballot. Most often these citizens are uninterested in the political process and do not feel the need or desire to change how our government is functioning. One excuse of non-voters is the “I’m too busy to vote,” excuse. Although it may seem that they are not even making a decision in the election, they are. They are choosing not to voice their opinion, or they made the decision that they are indifferent to who is elected.
Political science majors at Indiana University observed the youth voter outcome in the 2008 election. They created a long survey and sent it out to hundreds of IU students. The results from the survey proved to be unexpected. 30 percent of the respondents said that they were annoyed by the activists that promote voting, but most vote anyways. Data showed that the people who register to vote in the first election after turning 18 are more likely to become lifelong voters. The young voters really felt as though they had a voice they said and that Obama was going to win if young people voted. Even though there was an increase in voting turnout for Americans under 30 they are still only at around a 53 percent voter turnout, which is shy of the rates for older voters.
An example of promoting voting for young people is “Rock the Vote.” It has registered more than five million young voters and gives information for how to register to vote and how to cast a ballot. They use popular culture and grassroots organizing to motivate and mobilize young people in the US to participate in every election. This organization is just one example of a way that young people are encouraged to participate.
It is important for young people to vote because it will show government that they want to be represented. Because older voters are the most reliable voters government does what will please them. It is not worth a politician’s time to put effort in a group of young voters that do not even participate. Government collects statistics on what age group votes more often and from this politicians are able to more effectively campaign and get votes. By having the younger voters participate they are getting the attention of government and are being more “politically effective.”
For this past presidential election between Obama and Mitt Romney voter participation was down from the 2004 and 2008 percentages. With the voter turnout at 57.5% (CNN Wire) of registered voters participating in the election this shows that close to half do not even cast a ballot. The below infographic from Jasmin shows the turnout and how age plays a role in determining who goes to polls or not.
Overall voter participation is a statistic that can be an overwhelming eye sore to many political scientists. Although it brings a concern I believe that it is the decision of any person whether they want to vote or not, and that is their participation in an election. Many say that everyone participating in elections preserves our democracy. Yes, it does preserve our democracy, but nonvoters are just as equally exercising their right to vote by not choosing to. I am not supporting the idea of no voter participation; I simply think that because they do not vote, that ultimately is their opinion. They have no opinion on the matter at hand whether it is a presidential or senator election for example and that is their “vote”.
Voter participation will always be a touchy subject and bring questions of a true democracy or of how government is actually representing voters. Young people are a necessary voice in our democracy and if they have an opinion they need to voice it by voting. Otherwise, if they are indifferent to the election or voting they can choose to not vote, thus this being their voice in elections.