What if only half of America had the right to vote? What if only half of America had a say in electing the person to lead the nation, and, in part, the world?
It's a crazy question in this day and age. All American citizens over the age of 18 are granted the right to vote under the United States Constitution. But amazingly, only a little more than half of eligible voters even show up at the polls on election day every four years. They have the right to vote, but decide not to.
There are plenty of reasons why that might be, and it's too complicated a question to fully unpack in a blog post. But for many, voting is simply a chore that they don't feel is urgent enough to warrant a few minutes of their day (or hours, in case of a crowded polling place). People lead busy working lives and have children to care for. They don't want to spend valuable time waiting in line for a vote that they aren't sure will matter in the big picture. They doubt the impact that a single vote can have.
To a certain extent, their doubts have merit. One vote, of course, is extremely unlikely to tip the election in one direction or another. But this kind of apathy is no excuse not to vote. In fact, the act of voting is far more important than the outcome of the election.
The right to vote, regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic status—as we know—has not always been guaranteed. It had to be fought for, tooth and nail, by generations of brave Americans who were derided and abused every step of the way. Deciding that voting is not worth your time is a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who never had the right, and to those who battled to win it for you.
In the days of the Founding Fathers, only white men who owned a certain amount of property (i.e., who were somewhat well-to-do) were eligible to vote in United States elections. These property restrictions were gradually phased out during the 19th century, allowing most white men to vote. Black men were not allowed to vote until 1870. Women of any ethnicity were not allowed to vote until 1920. Despite these amendments to the Constitution, localized institutions of poll taxes and racial intimidation continued to prevent many poor and minority citizens from voting. And until 1971, when the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18, teenaged soldiers who were eligible to fight and die for our country were not eligible to vote.
So unless you're Donald Trump, there was probably a time in our nation's history when a person like you would have been legally unable to vote. With that understood, why mimic that oppression by keeping your vote uncast? Voting is the most effective way we have of participating in our democracy. It may be a convoluted system (how does the electoral college work again?), but it's one of the most precious rights we have as Americans. By not voting, you are creating the same state of affairs as if you were prohibited from voting.
Therefore, vote. Vote in whatever manner your intellect dictates and your conscience guides—that is your choice. Choose a candidate; if you don't like the main two, write one in. The choice is not whether to vote. Choosing not to vote is not a choice at all: it's the absence of one.
The Pennsylvania deadline for registration has already passed, so many eligible voters who did not register will already be sitting this election out. If you have family or friends who are registered but say they won't be voting this November, try to convince them otherwise, even if you disagree with them politically. Make sure you help anyone in your family or neighborhood who might have trouble getting to a polling place due to a disability or a lack of transportation. Make sure they know that their right to vote is not something that can be taken away from them. Voting unites us all as Americans, regardless of political leanings.
If you caught the second Presidential debate this week, you may be aware that there's just one more coming up on October 22nd at 9:00 PM. Check out the Flag Lady Gifts online store (or come in person) for any patriotic or partisan supplies you might need for a debate party or election night gathering—we've got both sides covered, don't worry.
If you're having an election-related party, leave a comment and let us know how you're celebrating. Most importantly, on Tuesday, November 6th: vote!