One of the most important aspects of our democratic system is the right to vote. Especially during an election year, we are continuously hearing about the impact our vote has on the future of the country. Thus, I will spare you the whole spiel on why you should go out and vote.
We all know that voting is important, and although some of us must be tired of that conversation, nearly half of eligible Americans didn’t exercise their voting right in 2016. According to a study by the Knight Foundation, 43% of the eligible voting-age population did not cast a vote for president in 2016. Non-voters’ lack of participation is a key feature of our system, and, despite efforts to encourage people to vote, we are not making good use of democracy.
Often that the main reason why people don’t vote is because they don’t trust the election system. According to Knight Foundation, many non-voters have serious doubts about the impact of their own votes. When we head to the polls or mail in our ballots, we are left with the lingering thought of if our vote actually changes anything. Yet, we repeatedly learn how the electoral system is built to make every citizen’s voice count.
In fact, our voice does not only count every four years when we elect a presidential candidate, nor does it only matter during midterm elections when we elect our representatives and local officeholders. As citizens who are vested with the power of electing those who can better stand for our needs, we should care about politics beyond the election.
On Nov. 3, millions of Americans and foreign audiences will tune into the election coverage. We will be on the edge of our seats tightly holding on to our smartphones and broadcasting our thoughts online. We will either celebrate or disapprove whichever candidate wins the race. Now, what will happen after Tuesday? Will we resume our lives and go on with a sense of defeat or victory? In truth, many of us will potentially keep our distance from politics-related conversations.
After such a tumultuous year, we are desperately looking to retreat from the news. However, another way we can exercise democracy besides voting is by holding our leaders accountable and critically examining if they are holding up to their promises. We tend to forget that electing candidates is only the first step. When we vote for someone to represent us as a nation and community, we are putting our hope in the policies and values they vowed to protect. Yet, when we find that our leaders are not fulfilling their part of the contract, we are responsible for calling out their inconsistencies.
Our generation is increasingly skeptical about the electoral system, but the way we can spark change is by making proper use of our democracy beyond voting every two or four years. Besides keeping yourself informed about current events, you can use social media to amplify candidates’ voices, or to encourage others to vote. You can contact your representatives and senators to voice any concerns or dissent. To find your representative, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
Our democracy should not stop at the polls. After the election, let’s remember that the impact of our vote is not limited to one day every four years. More importantly, as people of faith, we remain confident that the kingdom of God doesn’t depend on the outcome of an election.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash