The title should say it all. And yet, so often I’ve expressed that sentiment to people and they push back with all the reasons why voting doesn’t matter. But it does. In a democracy (or a democratic republic or whatever variation you want to pedantically state we live in) your vote is one of the things you have that matters most.
The elected corrupt have little interest in educating the electorate
While voting is good, voting blind is not. You do yourself and everyone you know a disservice if you don’t do your research. Keeping up with all the positions and politics used to be hard and time-consuming, but we live in the future, and these days in as little as five or ten minutes a day you can learn so much about every issue that faces this nation, and from so many sources that you no longer have to implicitly trust that the reporter is giving you an unbiased opinion. Let the opinions be full of bias, and let the Internet deliver to you so many opinions that you can find the truth for yourself.
Just be careful not to tie yourself down to too few sources, even when.. no, especially when you find yourself agreeing with everything a particular source says. Don’t be lazy because it is so easy to not be lazy. Use Google and Bing, or even Yahoo or Ask or any random search engine, and you’ll get all the information you need. And with the advent of Web 2.0 design, you can participate. If you read something you don’t quite understand, you can ask for clarification and the Internet will clarify it. Millions of people are out there, waiting for someone to ask “Can you explain what is meant by…”, and some of them will even be right!
Don’t wait for the politicians to tell you what the issues are. Go find the issues for yourself. Educate yourself. Because the truth is, the people you’d rather not have in office would rather have voters who are easily distracted by meaningless issues that reek of tabloid level scum than to have voters who actually know what’s going on.
There is no use voting for anyone but the Republican or the Democrat
In many cases, when you get to the polls, you’ll find yourself with just two options. Republican or Democrat. (Though, write-in candidates should be supported everywhere, you might just have to search hard for the option or ask for help in locating it – some of these ballots are really poorly designed, even the electronic ones.) But often there will be other choices. These 3rd party candidates are often there to shine a spotlight on a single issue or small set of issues, but you don’t have to ignore them. Include them in your research and if you think those people are the best for the job vote for them.
Some people will call that a “wasted vote”, but it isn’t. Not in principle. Yes, Mr. Third-party may not have a shot in hell of taking the office, but if he can get enough votes then either a) his pet issues will get more air time, or b) the swell of support this time will increase his chances next time. And remember, not everyone votes at the same time, and exit polls start showing predictions early. Your vote of confidence in that other option might inspire others to also throw their weight behind the little guy.
Mostly though, a vote for the best person is never a wasted vote. Voting for someone you don’t want in office because she’s a little less bad than another candidate, that is a wasted vote because you are supporting someone you don’t agree with. And when they get into office, they don’t get results like “62% of the voters voted for you! However, 23% only did so because they didn’t want the other guy to win but they don’t really like you.” They just get the first sentence, the one that tells them they have a mandate from the people. You’ve just given a mandate to a politician you didn’t like enough to vote for on merit alone.
Vote for the candidate you want to win!
Tomorrow is election day in the United States. If you haven’t yet, spend a little time today to find out what is going to be on the ballot and learn enough to have an opinion. Tomorrow, vote.