Reaction to voter turnout is overrated

O By Aeriel Anderson

on Nov. 4, I received three phone calls in two hours. They were all voice-recorded messages from dedicated politicians, encouraging me to cast my ballot the following day. One of the calls was from DFL secretary of state candidate Buck Humphrey, reminding me of the importance of this election and emphasizing the value of my personal vote.

Although slightly repetitive, the necessity of individual votes cannot be overlooked. In a study conducted by the Almanac of European Politics, regarding the voter turnout percentages of 20 democracies around the world, the United States was ranked in last place, with a mere 38 percent turnout.

How is this possible? The United States, the nation that continually proclaims the invaluable nature of democracy, is also the nation with the most apathy to one of its essential democratic rights – the right to vote. Democracy is a privilege. The opportunity to take action and participate in one’s government is a rarity in global politics, yet so many American citizens take it for granted. The day citizens reject their right to vote is the day the United States denies the basis of the democratic system upon which it stands.

The United States is a nation distinguished from others for the freedoms and opportunities given to its citizens. The right to vote is one of many blessings U.S. citizens take for granted. The Constitution states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote Ö shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state.”

The lethargic attitudes of citizenship have become so prevalent in our society that people have disillusioned themselves to the point of thinking their responsibility to vote is unimportant. Citizens have come to believe that the voice of one person cannot and will not make a difference. This is grave misconception. As U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says, the right to vote is “the heart and soul of our democracy.”

Exercising one’s right to vote is of extreme importance in and of itself; it is a responsibility that every American citizen should accept. The right to vote is especially valuable to the individuals who have personal concerns about the way the U.S. government functions. Citizens need to utilize the constitutional right to vote and take part in the national government. Those who disagree with the current system, yet choose not to vote, have given up their right to complain about the government. The rights and privileges of living in the United States, such as freedom of speech, should not be protected if the basic responsibilities of citizenship, such as a citizen’s responsibility to vote, have been carelessly disregarded. Everyone should partake in their national government, and those who are distressed with U.S. politics’ current methods are the people who urgently need to take action. Change in the system will not occur unless it is demanded from the system.

Just in the past few weeks the Minnesota voting turnout statistics for the election on Nov. 5 have been hugely rejoiced in almost every source of media. One article claimed there was more than 60 percent voter turnout in the state. Little more than half of the state’s population manages to vote and it makes the national news circuit as the leading state in voter turnout. I find it entirely disheartening that the press and the American people are content, if not proud, of this meager contribution. By the endless complaints and sarcastic statements about our nation’s government, I would have expected a much higher level of involvement in politics from Americans. Unless action is taken on behalf of an individual to contribute to his or her nation’s well-being, that individual has no claim to any rights that his or her government would otherwise provide.

Take a stand. For a nation not only to give its people the right to vote and ask for active citizenship, but then to be blatantly slapped in the face by consistent low voter turnouts is disgusting. I am exhausted by hearing Americans complain about the way our government works, then sit back and make up excuses for not voting: “I don’t have the time; my vote doesn’t really matter anyway; politics are too corrupt as it is.” These are pitiful excuses and should not even be said unless the individual has made actual attempts to change the system.

If you are fed up with the way our political system functions, do something about it. Whether that means casting your ballot at the next election or being on the ballot yourself, exercise the right you have to make change happen.

Aeriel Anderson is a University freshman majoring in global studies. Send letters to editor to [email protected]