Why bother to vote at all?

By ICAROL

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Register to vote here.

 

I've been thinking a lot of an old 'saw' recently, I'm sure you've heard of it too. "For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost.  For the want of a shoe, a horse was lost.  For the want of a horse, a battle was lost. For the want of battle, a kingdom was lost." And while this old 'saw' probably refers to a medieval battle, it's just as applicable today when it comes to the low voter turnout we have seen in the past number of elections. Updating that old 'saw' may give us something like this "For the want of a vote, a precinct was lost.  For the want of a precinct, a state was lost.  For the want of a state, an election was lost.  For the want of an election, a country was lost."   

 

The ability to vote is one of the most cherished of our Constitutional Rights. It is the right to vote that people have fought for, marched for, and even died for, over the centuries.  It is the right to vote that enables you to express your opinion as to the fitness of our elected leaders and their policies. It is the right to vote that permits you to hire or fire those who represent you in government.  It is the right to vote that allows you to determine, to a certain degree, your own future by electing officials who reflect your views and will speak for you in government. But by not voting you are abdicating your right to influence government and allowing the will of others, whose opinions maybe contrary to your own, to prevail. And more importantly, by not voting you are allowing it to be no longer the will of the majority that governs this country, but rather, the will of the minority.

 

I don't think that any one of us wants to see this country lost because we didn't exercise our most important Constitutional right, the right to vote.  But we have also seen, far too often recently, elections being won or lost by a small margin of votes, not just in Florida in 2000, but look at the elections of 2002.  How many of those races were won or lost by a small percentage of votes?  And with voter turnout, along with voter registration, in a downward spiral, it becomes pretty obvious that eligible voters are being lost all over this country.

 

While there has always been a certain percentage of eligible voters who don't vote, or donít even register to vote, the trend over the years has been for less and less eligible voters to register and even less and less of them to vote.  In the election of 2002 we saw that only 39.9 % of eligible voters actually voted, and considering the closeness of many of the elections, that meant that approximately 20% of eligible voters determined the course of this country.  Why aren't the other 60 to 80% being heard from?  In the 1800's it wasn't all that unusual for 70 to 80% of eligible voters to vote, but the last time we saw even 60% of eligible voters cast their ballots was in 1968, more then 30 years ago.  And the percentage of voters actually casting ballots has decreased since then until we see that in the last two presidential elections just about 50% or less of eligible voters actually went to the polls.

 

You should note that we saw a much higher turnout of eligible voters during a time when mass communication didn't even exist.  With the proliferation of mass communication of all sorts, TV, radio, cable and, of course, the Internet, one would assume that voter participation would go up, but the reverse seems to be true, it has gotten smaller. Is this due to the over abundance of information that today's voters receive? Is it because of the numerous political pundits on radio, TV and cable stations that are all vying for your attention, and the ratings that come with it, while trying to entice you into believing what ever the topic of the day is?  Is it the so-called 'attack ads' that have turned us off to the political process?  Or is it because that in order to utilize mass communication to it's fullest, a candidate must advertise on all the communication mediums available to them.  And, as we all know, that costs money.   

 

We all know about the massive amounts of money that corporations, and individuals, pour into election campaigns, trying to influence politicians and policies.  But no matter how much money a campaign has, it still must win the election; it can't overcome the necessity of having you choose the candidate of your choice on Election Day. So it is on Election Day, when we cast our ballots, that we have a greater influence on politics then all the campaign contributors combined. For by casting our ballots for or against the candidates running for office, we are expressing our views and influencing the policies of our elected officials.  It is on Election Day that we get to have the final say about how the government, both local and federal, is run and what policies it enacts. In the end it is the people who do decide who gets into office, not the corporations or the large campaign contributors, but this only happens if people, in large numbers, are willing to go to the polls and vote.  By staying home and remaining silent, the people of this country are showing that they are uninterested in how this country is run, thereby allowing those large campaign contributors to have a much greater influence then they ordinarily would, or should, have.

 

It is the influence of those large campaign contributors that many of us find repugnant, and sometimes overwhelming.  It is those campaign contributors, lobbies, and the special interest groups that both parties cater to, that push for laws, and policies, that sometimes benefit no one but themselves.  They don't always have your best interest at heart, no matter what they claim, only their own.  But the laws and policies enacted today can, and often do, influence the long ranged health of this country, it doesn't matter if the policy enacted concerns it's economic health, it's environmental health or it's diplomatic health, any policy, or legislation, can have a long term impact on our nation's future.  And it's our nations future, and your own, that should concern you today. If you allow others to control that future you will have lost your ability to control your own, and your nation's, destiny.  You will be allowing others to dictate to you what your future will hold, rather then shaping that future yourself. 

 

I've heard this statement many times recently too, "We'll elect the government we deserve to get."

Is it because so many Americans are apathetic about politics that we gotten the second-class leadership we've had over the past number of years? Is it the indifference of many Americans, come Election Day, which allows a small percentage of its population to control the futures of the rest of us?  If it is, then it's time for you to change and become involved in the process that will affect your life, for better or worse, in the future. Only by changing that apathy and indifference to concern and interest can you shape your own future, only you can vote for the candidate who will best reflect that future in the laws and policies they enact in your name.  Only you, with your vote, can make the difference.

 

Make a difference.  Vote.

 

 

Note: Statistical records of voter registration and voter turnout can be found on these pages:

 

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/site/data/turnout.php

 

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html

 

http://www.fairvote.org/turnout/preturn.htm

 

http://www.fec.gov/pages/htmlto5.htm

2003 GOTV page: Register to vote! (Look for an update soone!)