Yes, Your Vote Does Matter!

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.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Yes, Your Vote Does Matter!

  1. overseasgranny

    We are also voting, indirectly, on the future make-up of the Supreme Court. It is a critical election. If President Obama does nothing else this term except direct SCOTUS in a less conservative direction, I will be joyous!

  2. In a country which (arrogantly and publicly) prides itself on being the “city on the hill”, the exemplar for democracy, the model for those benighted struggling “democracies” (to say nothing of all the others), our record of ACTUAL voting is appalling. 40-something percent turnout in lots of elections??? Really? And maybe 63% in important elections like this one?? Say what?? This should embarrass us miserably. And don’t get me started on how difficult it is in many regions to become a registered voter, much less to cast a vote. And then there’s having Election Day on a weekday rather than a weekend . . . .

    So the structural elements are badly in need of reform, and we surely can do that. I wonder if those changes would in themselves change the inclination of millions of people to exercise the right and responsibility of voting for those at all levels of government who represent us in making decisions about many aspects of our daily lives. Some days I’m hopeful about that .

    • The problem, as I see it, is not so much structural, as it is “a lack of responsibility.” We’ve had any number of initiatives in the past to make it easier to register – the “motor voter acts” are an example – and a number of states have early and weekend voting. While there seems to be a higher percentage in those states, they’re still not cracking 50% in many elections. Even in my state, which doesn’t have that, the polls are open from 7 in the morning until 9 at night. So I can vote on the way to work, on the way home, or just after dinner.

      One of the things I’d like to see is a stronger civics curriculum in schools. I’m frequently aghast at how little people understand about our government, and while they’re really big about talking about “their rights,” they don’t seem to have the countering idea that there are responsibilities that go with that.

  3. The single biggest impact of your vote will be that the new president will likely make 1-2 Supreme Court choices in the next 4 years. At least 4 of the justices are 70 and older with Ruth Bader Ginsburg being the oldest. We do not need the court to lean any further right than it is already unless we want more pro-corporate decisions like Citizens United.