Panther Prints

To Vote or Not to Vote

A polling station in use in an election for the U.S. Senate.

A polling station in use in an election for the U.S. Senate.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

A polling station in use in an election for the U.S. Senate.

by Robert Szot, Staff Writer

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Across the world, battles are fought with artillery, bombs and devices of war. However, in America, battles are fought with the power of the ballot. Increasingly, voter turnout has decreased or stayed mostly the same, even in important elections. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, with much at stakes for both sides, voter turnout actually decreased slightly, especially in the 18-24-year-old voting demographic.

This needs to change. With the stakes only getting higher in each election, America has more to lose if turnout stays at abysmal levels. Elections will be seen as less democratic, and presidents will be elected with a smaller mandate from the population.

Voting brings choice. If one votes, they can make their voice heard, but herein the problem lies. For one reason or another, significant portions of the population do not turn out in elections. this leads to a bigger problem than just low turnout figures; if less and less people vote, elections will become less and less representative. Entire sections of the country will not be heard, and if turnout trends continue, future presidents, senators and representatives will be elected by small subsections of Americans, representing only the interests of these groups and not Americans at-large. No matter what part of the political spectrum these voters are on, this fact should be concerning. Democracy is supposed to represent all of the population, but with lower and lower turnout, this intention can become undermined.

Voting, however, is more than just casting a vote. Voting represents a right that is fought over all across the world. Millions long for the right to a democracy, and yet millions more across the world are continually denied this right in countries such as North Korea, Cuba and China. However, in America, while the electoral system does have its flaws, American democracy represents an ideal – a privilege for these citizens. However, according to turnout figures from the past five presidential elections, up to 50 percent of Americans take this right for granted, according to the United States Elections Project. While thousands are losing their battle for democracy in other countries, in America, democracy is losing the battle for Americans’ attention.  

After elections in the past few years, there have been protests by various ideological groups, for example, after the French election in 2002 and the American elections in 2016. However, while the largest age demographic attending these rallies is the 18-24 demographic with numbers in the millions, this demographic has been one of the lowest to turn out in these elections. Here’s the simple truth: if they didn’t vote then they shouldn’t be protesting. The people that cared enough to go out and vote made their voice heard. Without a good reason for not voting, the protesters that did not vote have no quarrel to the result. While protests matter and are an integral part of American democracy, voting matters far more and actually has an impact in the result.

A defense that comes up by those that didn’t vote, especially in swing states, is that their vote didn’t matter. While at first thought this may appear to be true, with millions of votes cast and a clear margin between candidates in many state and national races, before the final outcome of the result, nothing is officially known and previously known conceptions can change. For example, due to the slightly lower turnout of Conservative Party-leaning voters in the 2017 United Kingdom general election during which the Conservatives were expected to win in a landslide, the Labour Party in fact significantly increased their seat total in Parliament and forced the formerly stable Conservative government into an unstable coalition. No matter what the final outcome seems to be at first, it can and will change, thus, every vote matters.

No matter any voters’ excuse, it is extremely clear: from exercising a democratic right to having ideological sections be represented, voting is a central and extremely important function of American society, and it helps keep the government in check and responsible to Americans. For this reason, every eligible citizen, no matter their situation, should simply vote.

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About the Writer
Robert Szot, Staff Writer
Hello! I’m Robert Szot, and here’s my admittedly bad attempt at a witty intro. (long pause) Moving on. I’m a sophomore, and this is my first year on the Panther Prints! I like to analyze the weather, travel, study maps and watch international politics (international for a reason). I have always been interested in covering...
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