The election is only days away, and we don’t have to tell you how important this one is. It is no exaggeration to say that this election could be the most important election of our lifetime.
So much of what is important to us is at stake: healthcare, racial justice, reproductive rights, immigration reform, and further economic equality. The list goes on.
As of now, some 3.6 million Latinos will have turned 18 in time to vote in November since the 2016 presidential election. That means Latinos make up a record 32 million of the American voting population — the largest ethnic minority in the US. You’ve heard it time and time again, but it is your duty as a citizen of a democracy to exercise your right to vote.
But what is a democracy anyway? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a democracy is a government by the people, one in which “the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”
That means every single citizen of the U.S. has a say in what their government will look like. Period. But for many Americans, this statement sounds like an empty platitude. After all, roughly 44% of eligible American voters don’t vote, which means they don’t exercise their democratic rights. Many Americans don’t vote out of feelings of apathy or overwhelm.
According to The 100 Million Project, a “comprehensive national study of the non-voting adult population of the U.S.,” the leading reasons people don’t vote are because they 1) do not trust the elections process, 2) they are uninformed on essential topics, and 3) They don’t believe their vote truly matters.
On a surface level, these reasons make sense. But on further inspection, one could argue that they have no true merit. There are real consequences that come with not voting. Here are some.
If you don’t vote, you do not exercise your right to have any say in governmental policy
According to a study conducted by Buzzfeed in conjunction with Telemundo, the issues young Latino voters care most about are ethnic and racial equality and the end to police brutality, access to affordable healthcare, and environmental and climate change reform the most. The truth is young people want a say in what the future looks like. And while the age-old argument non-voters give is that “my one little vote doesn’t matter,” that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Some elections are razor-thin,” Dr. Rachael Cobb, chair and associate professor of government at Suffolk University, explained recently to Well + Good. “In 2016, the margin of victory for Donald Trump in the swing states that he won was less than 1 percent.” Especially in swing states like Florida, Arizona, and Michigan (among others) whose populations are closely divided among the political spectrum. Sometimes, elections are decided by a handful of people. Handful. That could be you.
The fact of the matter is, the outcome of elections will affect you — whether you’re interested in politics or not. As influential feminist author Carol Hanisch said, the personal is political. That means broader political structures directly shape your personal experience — there is no escaping it.
Everything from parking ticket fines, to your student loan rates, to the cost of your birth control prescription, is decided by the outcomes of elections. Don’t fall into the trap that millions of Americans have fallen into and believe you don’t matter. You absolutely do.
If you don’t vote, you are effectively casting a vote for the opponent you least agree with
A major reported reason people do not vote is that they “do not like either candidate,” which makes sense. “We will often be forced to decide between candidates who don’t fully speak to our values,” said writer and activist Raquel Willis to Teen Vogue. “And if we decide to vote, often we must lean into pragmatism, vowing to do the work so we can have more liberated options for leadership down the road.”
So yes, sometimes there are candidates on the ballot who have expressed personal opinions that are in opposition to our own or who don’t necessarily support policies that we believe in.
But as Willis said above, when voting, we must commit to pragmatism. Even if we are not head-over-heels for the candidate whose political ideals most closely align with your own, we must be pragmatic and cast a vote if we want the needle to move closer to our political ideals.
We are working towards a more perfect union, “more perfect” being the keywords. The more you vote, the more you create a government that you want to see. The goal is progress. Perfection will come with time, the more you show up to the polls.
If you don’t vote, you are letting the people trying to suppress your vote win
There are forces at work out there that want nothing more than for young BIPOC voters to stay home come election day. And that’s for one reason: that particular demographic tends to vote progressively, which is against their political agenda.
“Get rid of the ballots, and we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer [of power], frankly,” President Donald Trump said recently in a press briefing. “There will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.” And he’s not the only Republican who supports this belief.
The reality is, there has been a real organized and concerted effort to suppress votes. Like the recent news that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has restricted ballot drop-off boxes to one per county — a move that experts are saying is a direct attempt to suppress the Latino vote.
Or increasingly strict voter ID laws that target people with traditionally non-white white names, creating complications and loopholes that disqualify people of color from voting. These voter-suppression laws make arbitrary rules that require a voter’s registered name to directly match their official ID.
So, if you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed or hopeless or apathetic, know that there is a reason behind those feelings. Conservative politicians want you to feel that way, so you don’t go out and change the outcome of the election — because they know you have the power to do so.
If you feel hesitant to vote because you feel uninformed, know that there are resources for you. If there are logistical reasons that you’re thinking of not voting — like you can’t find transportation or you’re worried about taking off work, know that there are resources for you. If you feel like you’re just one person whose vote doesn’t matter, remember that every voice counts. And yours might be the one to determine the future.