With just a few weeks until Election Day (even less by the time you will be reading this), there is one message being shouted loud and clear from people on both sides of the political aisle: GET OUT AND VOTE.
This year, more than ever before, every vote counts — every voice matters. Every opinion is important, and every single ballot cast across the nation could determine our democracy’s future.
This is why every person reading this, and every person you know needs to vote. Yes, even your stubborn friend who is convinced her vote doesn’t matter; even your grandmother, who is so underwhelmed by her options that she’s decided it’s a better choice to abstain from voting altogether (spoiler alert: she’s wrong).
Even your 93-year-old great uncle who is too apathetic to go to the ballots needs to vote. As the generation of voters who very well may sway the vote in one direction or another, our mission is clear — mobilize voters and support record voter turnout in 2020. Because our lives, our health, our livelihood, and the conscience of this country depend on all of us.
We all have a duty to cast our vote and convince our friends and relatives that they, too, need to vote.
According to CNN, in 2016, voter turnout dipped to nearly its lowest point in decades. Only about 126 million votes were counted and about 55% of voting-age citizens cast ballots in 2016, which means that roughly half of all eligible voters did not vote. Consider just how many people that is.
One of our most important roles as politically engaged citizens of this country is to ensure everyone has a voice, and every vote is counted. That includes our friends who “don’t see the point in voting” and our family members who “can’t be bothered.”
So, what can you do? First of all, you must get educated and help inform others; next, you have to raise your voice when it matters most.
Dissecting the Disappointing Voter Turnout in 2016
In 2016, voter turnout was embarrassingly low, with nearly half of all eligible voters choosing not to vote at all. While this isn’t the worst voter turnout we’ve ever seen — that goes to 1996 when Bill Clinton faced off against Bob Dole — we know that nearly half of all eligible voters (46.9% of approximately 231,556,622 people) did not show up to cast a ballot in 2016, according to the United States Election Project.
Perhaps the lack of turnout was due to disappointment in the options, or maybe people of all ages failed to realize just how much their vote might matter. Still, either way, millions of Americans did not vote four years ago when Donald Trump was elected to office.
Those numbers are even worse for minorities and younger generations of voters.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election. Only 59.6% of black voters cast a vote in 2016, compared to 66.6% in 2012. This decline is the largest on record for black voters.
For Latino voters, while the percentage of voter turnout did not significantly decline from 2012 — the Latino voter turnout rate was 47.6% in 2016, compared with 48.0% in 2012 — the more alarming statistic is that the total number of Latino voters who DID vote was less than the number of eligible voters who did NOT vote.
Pew Research Center data shows that there were approximately 14 million Latino non-voters in 2016 (those eligible to vote who do not cast a ballot), compared to 12.7 million voters in the last presidential election.
To put that all in perspective, while President Trump won the election due to electoral votes, Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote, with more than 2.9 million MORE votes than Donald Trump. Data shows that a shift of fewer than 80,000 votes in three key battleground states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) could have changed the election outcome. Just 80,000 people could have changed the course of our country’s political landscape, and we know that tens of millions did not show up to vote.
Tell that to your relative who thinks that his or her vote won’t matter.
When in Doubt, Look to Organizations Dedicated to Mobilizing Voters
Here we are, four years later, in 2020, facing one of the most challenging, world-altering years, many of us will experience in our lifetimes.
We are battling a global pandemic that is unrelenting and showing no signs of disappearing, despite what some world leaders might claim. We face dangerous long-term effects of climate change and a world being torn apart due to systemic racism and racial injustice. We are in the midst of an economic crisis. As a country, we are suffering, and our voices matter now more than ever.
Since the last election, our country has changed; our world has changed, and the outcome of this upcoming election is more critical than ever before, which is why every single vote matters.
To ensure that each one of those votes is not only encouraged but actually cast and counted at the polls, organizations across the nation are working to mobilize and empower voters.
Not sure where to begin when trying to convince a stubborn friend or relative to vote? These organizations are here to help.
Organizations like Voto Latino are working hard to make sure that every eligible Latinx voter is registered to vote and educate and empower this growing population of approximately 32 million voters in 2020.
According to their website, “Latinxs are a huge and growing voting bloc, and if we all come out to the polls to flex our power, there’s nothing to stop us from having a reflective, inclusive, and accountable government. It all starts with registering to vote.”
NextGen America is dedicated to mobilizing young voters — especifically people under the age of 35 who are less than likely to vote or who are not currently registered to vote — and win back the White House and Senate by pledging over 380,000 people from our communities to vote and organizing nearly five million young voters to cast a ballot for progressives. Their goal is to motivate young people to vote in this election and engage them in the political process so that they become lifelong voters.
When it comes to young, college-aged voters, convincing them to become civically engaged is a unique challenge. According to Richard Weissbourd, Senior Lecturer and faculty director of Making Caring Common at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “only 40% of college students turned out in the 2018 midterm election — a dramatic jump from the 19% student turnout in the 2014 midterm elections, but a disappointing percentage for any healthy democracy.”
The best way to encourage young people to vote is through prompting from their peers. This is why Making Caring Common has launched a new, nonpartisan voter mobilization and civic education initiative for young voters called Get Out the Vote.
The Black Voters Matter Fund not only strives to increase voter registration and turnout but also expand voting rights and access to effective voting in an effort to increase power in marginalized, predominantly Black communities.
This organization believes that black voters matter not only on election day but every day of every year and works to help the black community understand key issues, especially policies that intersect with race, gender, economic and other aspects of equity.
If you’re not sure how to talk about politics with friends and family members, or you need some professional guidance, these organizations and so many others are there to help.
How to Effectively Convince Stubborn Friends and Family Members to Vote
If you’re up to the task, and you’re ready to sway your stubborn friends and family members to make their vote count, then these tips and talking points may help you state your case.
- Make an argument (with facts) that they cannot dispute.
Use numbers. Share statistics. State the undeniable facts when it feels like opinions are not going to change their minds. Make it about the indisputable figures and information, and not about your position or political affiliation.
If your friends and relatives are not interested in your mindset and seem unlikely to change their own policy stances, try to stick to truths about voter turnout and the impact each and every vote could have on the election.
- – Really listen to their reasons for not wanting to vote.
It’s important not to get angry or judgmental. Casting judgment or shaming non-voters rarely works to convince them why they should vote. Instead, listen. Ask why they are considering not voting or aren’t motivated to vote, and truly hear what they have to say.
Once you hear their argument, actually take a moment to consider the truths they are telling you and the realities of their mindset. Remember that we all have our own perspectives and their reasons for not wanting to vote are just as valid as your reasons for casting a ballot and trying to motivate others to do the same. Understanding where they are coming from is an essential step in changing their outlook and action plan.
- – Put it in context for your family and future generations of family members.
It’s not enough to tell people why they should vote. You have to put it into context they’ll relate to and understand — you have to re-frame voting. Don’t promise that by casting a vote, all of the problems of the world will go away.
Unfortunately, we all know that’s not true. But by not voting, people will miss the opportunity to influence policies and political decisions that could sway our country’s course for years to come.
There is so much that could change in the coming years, and a vote on November 3rd is a chance to share your voice on those issues. For many families, especially millennials who might not want to vote, it’s important to remind them of all the people in this country (past and present) who do not or did not have the opportunity to vote. Remind them that they are voting for those relatives and friends, and community members who never had the chance to share their voice.
- Make civil engagement a habit and a part of everyday life.
Make the entire process seamless and natural. You can’t expect people to suddenly want to vote on November 3rd if they are totally oblivious and uninterested in politics the other 364 days of the year. Make civic engagement a part of your and their everyday life.
When it comes time to vote, make the entire process as simple and convenient as possible. Have a plan and get organized. Know where to vote and when. If you’re voting absentee or by mail, know exactly when you need to cast your vote and what local voter deadlines are. Take the guesswork out of the equation, so your friends and relatives don’t have any excuses regarding logistics.
- Remember that voting costs nothing, and it means a great deal to the most vulnerable people in our country.
Voting doesn’t cost a penny, but the impact your vote will have just might change the lives of millions of Americans. Never forget the value of your voice. This is especially true for minorities and marginalized communities that have been historically quiet and inactive in past elections.
Clearly, there is more on the line in 2020 than ever before. Vote for your community. Vote for future generations of family members and loved ones. Vote for your health. Vote for progress. Remember that if you don’t vote, others will, and their vote will make an impact, an impact that might do more harm than good. Because if you do not vote, other people will have control over your future, and you won’t have any say. At the end of the day, that’s what this election is about: making sure that your voice matters.