With the upcoming presidential election, it is ever-important to recognize one of America’s most important freedoms, your ability to have a say in the matter of politics. As a citizen, it is your duty to vote, yet many young people are failing to complete their duty, which could eventually result in the destruction of democratic principles as we know it.
In the age of the internet, one can find many young people who are apathetic or unappreciative of their right to vote. In the 2016 election only around 55% of the voting age population (VAP) turned out to vote. While this is not the lowest percentage of a presidential election, it is part of a downward trend in turnout compared to percentages ranging from 71-82 during the mid-late 1800s. I believe this is at least partly due to the internet, which has consumed the minds of those on the younger side of the VAP and led them to become lazy in terms of political knowledge and awareness. The anonymity of communicating through a screen allows these people to take part in conversations about politics that they believe are meaningful, but are never required to express their opinion on the place that truly allows them to have a say, the ballot.
One reason to take advantage of voting is to appreciate the hardships so many Americans had to go through in order to let you vote. It started with the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers’ fight to gain the first political freedoms in the U.S, although they were originally limited to wealthy white men. The hard work of women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul gained women suffrage in 1920. And it was not until thousands of lives were lost and thousands more had been oppressed that African-Americans officially gained the right to vote in 1965. To ignore the sacrifices these people made over the course of our country’s history is to ignore the very idea of America. Those freedom fighters knew that they would not reap the benefits of their hard work, but they did it in order to better the lives of future Americans like us. So, it is important to vote to prove their efforts were not in vain.
Not only must we be cognizant of the United States’ history, but we must also recognize the vast number of people across the world who do not even have the choice to vote or not. In places like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Russia voting is rare and often meaningless. Nearly 100% of people turn out on election days in North Korea, but it may seem odd that out of four national parties the votes go solely to one party, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. This occurs mainly due to the intense pressure to vote in favor of the current regime, which puts in place neighborhood watches to find no-shows. In addition, the ballot consists of nothing but a singular candidate, which one can either put into the ballot box as is or cross off the name, which would result in certain persecution. Saudi Arabia did not grant women the right to vote until 2015 and only held seven elections in the eighty years prior to 2015. Electoral commissions in Russia have the power to reject undesirable candidates from registering for an election, and the ruling party’s role in elections consists of removing any strong opposition. During a number of elections on September 8, 2019, only 21% of people in Russia voted, as the Russian government purposely hid information about them from voters, and gave that 21% ballots with fake candidates.
These are only three of the more well known countries with large scale voter suppression; this occurs across the globe in many different ways, all of which deny people the human right to vote. By not voting you show a blatant lack of compassion for these people who have no say in how their country is run. Showing up to vote represents an acknowledgment of the privilege you hold as an American citizen, and as a symbol of support for the oppressed. Make sure to take advantage of your right to vote, it means a lot more than you think.