Yesterday I forgot the simplest and possibly the most important way of being an activist: Voting. For most of us (I will not go into voter suppression issues) it is a simple and usually not a time consuming action. This year I voted by mail which included filling out a form (maybe 15 min), sealing it in an envelope and dropping this envelope into a special mailbox, that was 5 minute drive from our house. That’s it.
But it’s not only important to vote for president. You need to vote for people who will be representing your voice in the government, who will be voting on policies in your name. That also means reading up on views of the people who’s names appear on the ballots so you know they will represent you and issues you stand for.
We are lucky enough to live in a democratic system. One of the basic principles of democracy is that we are guaranteed to have regular, free and fair elections where the citizens get to decide who will be in power. We have a CHOICE. Many people around the world don’t have that privilege.
The privilege of living in a democracy comes with some responsibilities and duties. Voting is our highest civic duty. If we forgo our right to vote, how can we say that we have a choice? By not voting we are basically undermining our democracy. Or said in a different way: “Higher voter turnout is in most cases a sign of the vitality of democracy, while lower turnout is usually associated with voter apathy and mistrust of the political process.” (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance)
Let me give you some numbers: in 2016 election, about 60% of voting eligible population cast their ballot (see United States Election Project by Associate Professor Michael P. McDonald of University of Florida). That is not a steep drop as some media outlets reported initially, it is about 3% less than in 2008 election when President Obama won his first term. However, this still mean that 92.7 million (!) people did NOT VOTE. That is a huge number. Think about it, almost 93 million people did not bother to vote (ok, some people could not vote for various reasons, but still the majority of these 93 million people just did not bother). The greatest turnout was in Minnesota at about 74%, and the lowest in Hawaii at about 43%.
While I support all the protests and while I do not stand by or believe in anything this president and his administration say or do, when they say – where were you when it was time to vote – they do have a point.
Election is over now, what’s done is done and let’s not be shaming people for who they voted or if they voted (ok, maybe a little on if they voted). Let’s think about the future and start informing ourselves about the 2018 midterm elections and let’s change things. Because the power to change is in our hands.