Time to Vote!
After a political campaign season spanning almost two years long, Election Day is finally almost here. The right to a free and fair election is one of the founding principles of democracy, as American as apple pie, Thanksgiving, and McDonald’s. We fought the Revolutionary War for it. Our soldiers die defending this important right in our current wars and wars of centuries past. Billions of dollars are spent campaigning. The media coverage is constant. And yet on the big day, many will not participate in this ultimate act of patriotism. In the 2012 presidential election, the turnout was only 53%. Why do we pride ourselves on our democratic right to a free and fair election and then abstain from voting?
The answer is, of course, complicated. Compared to other developed democratic nations, the US voter turnout rate is shockingly low. Other developed nations have measures in place meant to promote voter turnout. Some countries, like Sweden and Germany, register eligible citizens to vote automatically, unlike the US which makes each individual responsible for their own registration, and does not allow same-day registration. Therefore, it is no surprise that only 65% of the US voting-age population was registered to vote in the 2012 election, whereas Sweden’s rate was 96%. Some countries, like Australia, go a step further, making voting compulsory. Australia fines a small penalty fee for those who do not vote, and therefore voter turnout is never below 90%.
Other challenges make voting difficult for many US citizens, such as being required to vote on a Tuesday. Brazil’s Election Day, by contrast, is on a Sunday, helping students and lower income workers who cannot afford to miss a day of work freer to show up to the voting booth. Many US citizens have difficulty reaching a polling site before closing time because they have to travel a far distance before or after work and then wait in a long line at the polls.
Others still declare they will not vote this election season because they do not feel a strong affiliation to either major party’s candidate. In a particularly polarizing election season, many feel that neither candidate truly represents their views.
When compared to other developed nations, the US voting system is nothing if not flawed. However, it would be remiss to end the story here and far worse to stay home this upcoming Election Day. If political change is what you’re after, what better way to make a difference than casting your vote this election season?
In a nation as diverse as America, with a mix of cultures and races, an inundation of different world views and ideas, and a wide range in socio-economic status, arriving at a consensus is difficult. But our diversity is also our strength. There is plenty of work to be done in DC. Is it complicated? Of course. This does not mean we should take the freedoms that we have for granted. Few countries in the world can boast the same freedom of the press, where all political ideas can be heard no matter how controversial, and freedom to a fair election – where your vote directly impacts the future of our government. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th – make sure you cast your vote!
In January you can visit the Capitol to see our next Presidential inauguration ceremony!