Today is Election Day. Of course, you know that. You are up to your eyeballs in absurd candidate commercials and if one more person calls you about voting, you may go postal. When the votes are tallied, will you celebrate? Or will you sigh, and wonder how things always turn out the wrong way?
(I’m likely to fall in the latter group, but I’m hoping for an upset.)
I see no reason to explore party politics here. What I’d rather discuss is why people vote. Or, perhaps more importantly, why people don’t.
Other countries are successful in the area of voter turnout. In 2009, 96% of the people in Uruguay voted. In 2010, 89% of Rwandans cast a ballot. Taiwan had a 74% turnout in 2012. Heck, 71% of the French people voted in 2012 and you know how skeptical they can be. And the US? 57%--just a little better than half. (Data compiled by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance).
So why don’t Americans go to the polls? Maybe because it’s such a hassle. In Columbia, SC, where I live, the last election was a fiasco. Not enough voting machines, limited tech support when the ones they had went down, and ridiculously long lines. Some people waited six hours to vote. I worry that these folks are less likely to come out today.
Or maybe we’ve just become too jaded to vote. “It’s hard to believe MY vote will make a difference, given how all politicians are unethical slime buckets” or “Corporate America owns all of them. Why bother?”
In South Carolina, we have our share of corruption and idiocy among politicians. Our House Speaker was recently indicted for misuse of campaign funds. He actually faced worse charges but reached a deal with law enforcement that included testifying against others, so more indictments are probably coming. A former state treasurer for SC, now running as an Independent for US Senate, was once convicted of trafficking cocaine and is presently the star of his own reality TV show. And let’s not forget former Governor Mark Sanford, made famous for “hiking the Appalachian trail” down in Argentina. Guess what? We put him back in office.
I guess I understand why people may choose not to vote, but I think they are cheating themselves. Speaking for myself, I can’t wait to cast my ballot. I’ve seen a phrase this election that resonates with me: My Vote is My Voice. Even if my candidates lose, I want to have my say in what happens.
Maybe it’s like buying a lottery ticket; I vote, I hope, and who knows? Maybe I’ll get a happy surprise!
One more thing: in my day job, I’m the Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers, SC Chapter. We put together a little video about why you should vote. Check it out here: