It’s the first Tuesday of November, which in the United States of America can only mean two things: either it’s Election Day; or it’s November 1st, which means the election is one week away; but more often than not it means that it’s Election Day. As the years have gone by and the country has begun to divide further and further along partisan lines, the day that should be a federal holiday has taken on a whole new meaning, especially for those who refuse to take part.
For the country that likes to believe it started the modern democracy movement, it sure does have a dismal record of voter turnout. According to CNN, the voter turnout for last year’s presidential election was just over 54%, the lowest mark since 1996. Even the highest turnout for a presidential election in the last 20 years was only 63.7%. There is a good chance that that mark will be decrease this year, as turnout often does in years not billed as a presidential election (though it’s too early to tell at the time of this writing if this year will follow suit). Despite dozen of campaigns to get people to polling places, many just can’t be bothered, either due to convenience, lack of belief that their individual vote real does matter, among other concerns.
The certainty that some citizens have that their vote is inconsequential is something I want to touch on. Though I don’t agree with them, there are some arguments in their favor, such as the fact that the loss of one vote will not shape the outcome of an entire race (unless that one voter is Kevin Costner), the valid gripes about the unfair distribution of voting power in presidential elections caused by the Electoral College, the knowledge that Russia decides the outcome of elections anyway, etc. These fears could be enough to make a trip to the polls seem like too much of a hassle for those so inclined. The belief that it doesn’t matter means that people will not make the time to go. Thus, we end up with the low turnout results that we’ve grown to know and love.
But what if? What if we’re all wrong, and the Kremlin has no interest in the outcome of the Croton-on-Hudson mayoral election? What if the vote is untainted? What if your voice is important? What if it all matters? These are the questions that keep me going to the polls. Sure, there are some dubious thoughts in the back of my mind as well, including the fear that the ballot scanners won’t read my bubbles properly, or that the Illuminati already have elections for the next 50 years planned in advance. Despite these I still make the effort for the small chance that my vote really will be the difference maker.
I have tried not to miss an election since I came of age back in 2011. Today I braved torrential downpours, a nasty wind, and a runny nose just to make it to vote. Voting still kinda has some of the same thrill that one feels when they get behind the wheel for the first time after getting a license, or ordering off of the drink menu for the first time after turning 21. I know I’ve been able to vote for over six years now, but maybe it’s because it only happens a couple times a year, or that it happens so quickly before it’s over, but it still makes me a little giddy to color in the bubbles to add my voice to the crowd.
Or maybe my excitement to vote stems from nostalgia linked to all of the Scantron forms I filled out during Physics class in high school, but I’ll try to think it’s because I’m excited to fulfill my civic duty.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter how certain you are of how meaningless elections are. Even the most cynical must have a sliver of doubt, that belief that there’s a 1% chance that maybe it is real. It’s that 1% that should drive those doubters to ask “Why not?” and go vote anyway.