By Sam Murray
As we enter the final weeks before the presidential election, many Americans are concerned about something that should be so simple: voting. Will voter turnout be greater or lesser? Will my vote be counted? These are profoundly important questions in one of the most undoubtably important elections in modern history. So many issues are at stake; from the pandemic, to the environment, economic recovery, and so many more; both parties vary greatly in scope and involvement of the federal government as a driving force for change.
Yet when we think about voter turnout, there’s one thing that many Americans should understand: the rate of voter turnout in America is uniquely low and we should see this as disturbing. Only around 56 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2016 general election. Can we currently say that our election outcomes are truly representative of the ideas of our nation when there are around 44 percent of voters not participating? Why are presidential campaigns so focused on persuading likely voters, pushing them to swing left or swing right, when there is an ignored, untapped voter base larger than each party membership combined?
It’s more than just one election. It’s the very system we have in place that disenfranchises voters, not just in the design of how to vote, but who to vote for. Voters in Pennsylvania have their mail-in ballots discarded for failing to put their completed ballot in an additional “secrecy” envelope. Voters in Texas recently have had their ballot drop-off boxes limited to one per county, luckily recently blocked in a recent court, likely to receive a state appeal. Not only this, but non-voters fail to participate because they feel too busy, that their vote doesn’t matter, or simply the candidates fail to grasp their attention.
Again, we are unique in that our voting system is comparatively lower than in other comparable democratic nations. One profoundly important metric is that age plays an important predictor in voting. The youngest voting bracket, 18-29, votes at the lowest rate, hovering around 40 percent. If the youth are seeking change, they should be energetic in the untapped potential to effectuate it. They are the largest untapped voter bloc in America, and they have been the leading voices against injustice these last few years.
As we approach the deadline to request mail-in ballots, early voting, and the infamous Nov. 3 day, we should think about how one can get involved in genuine politics. Can you persuade someone to vote if they never have? We should be encouraging our friends, neighbors and family members to vote. Perhaps no candidate is ideal, but once elected, we can be sure to press them to abide to our values, else they lose reelection. This may be one election, but there are serious outcomes. Vote, and do so with a conscious.
Sam Murray is a master’s degree student in political science at American University in D.C., an MDIHS alum (2016) and a past intern with A Climate to Thrive.