“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
~Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States
Since the 2016 presidential election, Americans have been much more vocal about politics than ever before. We’ve seen it in protests, rallies, and marches. We read social media posts and hear information in the news. Some universities are offering courses. We have seen a huge wave of activism and resistance, and more people are contacting their local representatives to express their views. Everything has become more politicized.
Although 2018 is not a presidential election year, Midterms and Senate races are equally as important. These elections are another way citizens vote for issues such as increasing taxes, funding schools, affordable housing, public transportation, or hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana.
Immigrants and relatives from other parts of the world may well have seen and experienced firsthand what it is like to be governed by leaders who were not elected by the people. They know what it is like to have laws and policies enacted that do not reflect the desires and needs of the people. Voting is an important way to back the issues you care about and the representatives you think can best effect the changes you want to see. It is your voice. If you do not use your vote, no one will hear you. Yet, an alarmingly low number of people actually turn out for these elections. In some areas, less than 5% of voters will actually vote; sometimes it is less than 2%.
Why people refrain from voting has always been puzzling to me. Many will argue that their vote doesn’t count. Some say that they don’t know enough about the issues. Others will say that none of the candidates are deserving, therefore it isn’t worth voting.
When you don’t vote, you are choosing to give up your most important right and responsibility as a citizen. You are choosing to be silent while other people make decisions for you. Every vote matters! Many of these elections have been won or lost by a few hundred votes. By voting, you are making your voice heard and registering your opinion on how you think the government should operate. Enough voices in unison can elect someone to office, reaffirm or even change the course of our government. Remember, you are also voting for the future.
So, how do you get started? You must be a registered voter.
You can vote if you:
Are a U.S. citizen
Are 18 years old on or before Election Day (In some states, you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day).
Meet your state’s residency requirements
Are registered to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline.
Where to register to vote and registration deadlines depend on what state you live in. Click here for details on your state.
Once you are a registered voter, how do you make an informed vote?
Know what is going on locally and statewide so you can cast an informed ballot.
Decide what issues are important to you. This might include healthcare, welfare, taxes, social security, defense, schools, the environment, immigration, etc.
Learn what each candidate thinks about the issues. Do you agree or disagree with his/her ideas?
Most candidates also have websites that detail their ideas and goals for the office.
Visit your state’s election office website for state-wide voting guidance.
When do you vote?
To find out when you should be voting, consult with your city or county board of elections or county clerk or visit Vote 411.
Where do you go to vote and what do you need to bring?
Most states will send you a voter card to confirm that you are registered. It will include your designated polling place. If not, or you misplaced your card, you can look it up online at Vote 411. Typically, all that is needed is a valid driver’s license or state identification card. Check Vote 411 for specifics in your state.
What if you will be out of town on voting day?
You can still vote by obtaining an absentee ballot. Visit Vote 411 under “Absentee Voting” for voting dates in your state.
Elections are about choice. If you care about your country and your future, then make sure you vote at each and every opportunity. Never give up your voice and let someone else speak for you. Know your next voting date then mark your calendar.