As the World Turns

Why You Always Vote, Even When You Don't

Updated 3 weeks ago David Stone
Vote U.S.A.
Vote U.S.A.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Many, maybe most, have already gone to the polls or mailed in their ballots, but this is the last possible day for the rest of us. A reminder is necessary: Whether you registered or not, you will vote. You can't not vote.

As historian Howard Zinn explained in his A People's History of the United States, every one of us votes in every election whether we like it or not. We may vote for Republicans, Democrats, minor party candidates or even write-ins. You choose candidates on the ballot, write one in or you vote "None of the Above" by default.

Although not casting a vote for anyone seems like the lazy way to say "None of the Above," people chose to do so for reasons other than laziness.

One of our major parties, the Republicans, has a policy of discouraging voter turnout, making it hard to avoid the conclusion that they are aware that the more Americans turn out, the less likely conservatives are to win. To improve their chances, they make it hard to register and voting itself as inconvenient as they can. Republican controlled states will challenge your citizenship and force you to stand in agonizingly long lines to exercise your right.

When citizens are treated fairly, registering is easy. I spent fifteen minutes to register in 2000 when I moved back to Roosevelt Island. Since, all I've had to do is confirm my signature when I show up at the polls. The bar is not high.

Some people don't vote because the say they don't have enough time  to go to a polling place every two years. These same folks average five hours every day watching television, poking a hole in that alibi.

In reality, the more complex reasons people don't vote can be sorted into two categories. One, they believe voting is of little value because their vote makes no difference. Second, they are not excited by the choices offered, likening candidates to Frick and Frack.

Even so, they still vote for "None of the Above," and that's more consequential than they realize.

Why A Vote Matters

Have you ever asked yourself why your vote matters or even if it does at all?

One factor you may have missed is that a significant number of elites, the wealthy and powerful, count on your apathy to keep them in power. They understand the value of your vote as well as their own. Research shows that people earning over $150,000 per year have a voting participation rate that is more than double that of people making less than $10,000.

That's right, people with money vote because its in their best interest to elect candidates who will share their values. You can't blame them. It's not cheating. Anyone is free to pull the lever or stay home. Successful people take the time to vote.

Are you comfortable with ceding your rights to other Americans who don't share your concerns?

Up and down the statistical chain, you find the same thing. The more a person earns, the more likely he or she is to vote.

A default vote for "None of the Above" doesn't seem to be in your best interests, does it?

But the big reason your vote matters is because of special interests. What's the biggest and potentially most powerful special interest group in America? 

It's the one you belong to. The American voting public is the single most important influence in determining who holds office, writes the rules and decides how tax dollars are spent. 

The problem is readily apparent. Many of us disempower our own special interest by not voting.

One more statistic – the better educated you are, the more likely you are to vote. That is, smart people vote in greater numbers. Which side are you on? The smart side or "None of the Above?"

The Choices Are More Stark Than You Think

With an economy still stagnant from Reagan's trickle down management and George H.W. Bush unable to get it growing again, Americans elected a relative unknown, Bill Clinton of Arkansas, in 1992. After a shaky start, Clinton oversaw the strongest economic surge in decades. But eight years later, with term limits forcing him from office, reduced voter turnout (58% to 54%) led to a razor thin victory for George W. Bush.

You know what happened next.

By 2012, a voter participation rate of over 60%, a rarity these days, brought a Democrat back into the White House, helping to rescue the economy from its worst fall since the Great Depression. When you look at the record, high voter turnout almost always helps Democrats, the party most associated with everyday Americans.

In recent decades, reduced turnouts have given us Reagan, our most overrated president, Nixon, by far the most corrupt, and both Bushes.

Do you still think your vote doesn't matter and the choices are between Frick and Frack? That's the kind of thinking that may give Donald Trump for more years in the White House.

It's a given that we are deeply divided country with a huge injection of bigotry stirring the mix. Do you want to sit home and give the master chef of division another turn in the Oval Office?

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