One of the posts that is a regular on my “Popular Posts” list is one I wrote back in February. It was titled “If you don’t vote, you don’t matter. Period.” Over the years, I’ve heard any number of “reasons” – excuses, really – why someone doesn’t vote. It’s “inconvenient,” they’re “sending a message,” or most often, “it doesn’t matter.” As I said in that post, “It doesn’t matter why you’re not voting, it just means you removed yourself from any say in what the politicians who were elected into office are going to do.” But that’s not the only reason your vote matters.
Most people, particularly the “it doesn’t matter” group, tend to focus on the election for the highest office. This year, it’s for the President. If your state is a “Red” state or a “Blue” state, you probably don’t think that your vote won’t gave an effect one way or the other in that election. In some ways, you’d be right, although I would point out that approximately 48% of your fellow citizens seem to feel the same way, and that 537 votes determined the winner of the 2000 Presidential election. In aggregate, those 48% would have a major impact on any election if they were to show up.
So am I really saying it doesn’t matter? No. You see, we aren’t just selecting who is going to be the next President. We don’t have one election day to vote for President, and another for everything else. Here in New York state, we’re also voting for a Senator, Representatives, State Senators, State Assembly members, and judges. In other states, local elections (mayor, town council, etc.) are also on the ballot, along with a number of initiatives. All of which impact you directly, often far more than who is sitting in the Oval Office.
It’s in those elections that your voting – or not voting – has the greatest impact. A lot of these elections are close, and a few votes one way or the other will determine the winner. Among them are the people who will be deciding your local property and school taxes, state educational policy, making sure the roads are plowed, garbage is picked up, and the parks are open. In other words, all the services you take for granted, how they’re done – or not done – and how they’re paid for, are determined by the people in those offices.
If you keep complaining that “nothing changes,” that things aren’t going the way you think they should, and you haven’t voted, then you’re just blowing smoke. It’s meaningless noise, particularly to any politician. If you want politicians to pay attention to you, voting is the first step. As I said in that previous post, politicians care what the voters think. Not the people who say “I might vote,” “It doesn’t matter,” or “I’m sending a message by not voting.” They know that you’re not going to show up at the polls anyway, so they can safely ignore you and your concerns. If you’re a regular voter? That’s different. They don’t know how you voted, but they know you will vote. That means your concerns matter, because you might not vote for them. That’s how you get things to change, because politicians, like everyone else, like to win.
Your vote does matter. It may not, in and of itself, determine who will be President, but it has a major impact at every other level. Even more, it gives you a voice, and gets politicians’ attention. But if you decide to stay home, then you have no cause to complain. After all, your concerns … don’t matter. If they did, you would have voted.