Imagine that you’re at a party, and you see someone in a drunken stupor slip off their undergarments and urinate on the carpet. Although you have every tool at your disposal– a carpet cleaner, roll of paper towels, and wastebasket– to clean up the mess immediately, you willingly walk past it and think to yourself, “Eh, someone else will take care of it.” Through your inaction, you’ve become responsible for a stain in history that’ll be difficult to scrub out, for it eventually dries up, and its stench permeates the room and any areas within its vicinity. This regrettable incident illustrates not only the drawbacks of inebriation, but also the plight of the unregistered American voter, and we must not allow the bystander effect to take its toll as we inch closer toward Election Day on November 6th.
Voting is one of our most basic and critical American rituals. For one, it gives the disenfranchised (historically women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBT community) an equal say. After all, America would’ve never become an independent, democratic nation in the first place if it weren’t for pioneers who courageously fought for their beliefs; we can follow in their footsteps by voting during every election. Contrary to popular belief, local midterm elections impact us just as greatly as, and arguably moreso than, presidential elections do (in fact, 470 of 535 congressional seats are being contested this year!). Besides, if we’re willing to waste time completing Buzzfeed surveys regarding which house the Hogwarts sorting hat would assign us to, or what dog breed best matches our fashion sense, then why not commit a brief portion of our day to completing a survey that’s actually consequential to our well-being? Even if you’re a longtime smoker, or you’ve been afflicted with a nasty bout of strep throat, your vote provides you with a grand, unencumbered voice.
The excuses for avoiding your civic duty are dropping in quality and quantity. To those who dismiss voting’s importance because only about one-third of Americans at most partake in it, I counter that electees impact everyone, including non-voters. If the aforementioned statistic is accurate, then essentially each voter represents themselves and two other people, whose self-interests and viewpoints may or may not align; such a development is simply unacceptable within a supposedly democratic society. Nowadays it’s so easy to register online (e.g. via https://studentvote.org/) or complete a physical voter registration form, and organizations like BallotReady provide accessible, unbiased information about each candidate. You can also file an absentee ballot if you can’t travel to your local precinct on Election Day, and legally request a provisional ballot to combat voter suppression. Lastly, South Park’s pessimistic perspective that political races always come down to “a douche versus a turd sandwich” may tempt you to stay home on Election Day or cast a write-in vote for Shrek. But I’m a believer; there’s not a trace of doubt in my mind that you’ll have a pool of diverse, highly qualified candidates perfectly capable of effecting positive societal change from which to choose.
Completed Election Day ballots greatly resemble punches thrown throughout a boxing match (e.g. the presidential election is the equivalent of the heavyweight championship); you’ll feel proud if yours contributes to a victory, but you may be dealt a heavy blow if your preferred candidate doesn’t come out on top. Even on the heels of a loss, your impact will still be felt, and you’ll have a chance to rebound at the next match. Despite certain outcomes appearing virtually predetermined, there’s always the chance of an upset if you fight hard enough and your opponent grows complacent (and vice versa). The only true difference between you and a professional boxer is that hopefully you’ll never retire from your duty. Although you won’t rake in that pay-per-view dough, the tracking of each contest’s outcome is nevertheless worthy of its primetime billing.
Ultimately, we must become better-informed, more active citizens and strive to increase voting accessibility (i.e. prohibit voter suppression, lower the legal voting age to sixteen, designate Election Day as a weekend or national holiday, etc.). Regardless of your political affiliation, or lack thereof, you should vote for those candidates who best appeal to your viewpoints and self-interests. Please don’t adopt the notion that your voice isn’t being heard, for now more than ever we’re witnessing the progressive impact of activism against societal injustices and governmental inactivity. Even the smallest contributions make a huge difference, so you owe it to yourself to vote by November 6th and beyond (and to register if you haven’t done so already; Connecticut’s 2018 deadline is October 30th!).
Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org.