At some point in your life, you’ve likely been told that it's important to vote. But maybe you still don't truly understand why.
In a country with over 200 million eligible voters, you may think your vote doesn't matter. But that couldn't be further from the truth.
Exercising your right to vote is one of the truest aspects of democracy, and it’s one that hasn't always been guaranteed to every citizen in this country.
Why is voting is an important responsibility of citizenship?
While 70 percent of Americans say they believe that high voter turnout in presidential elections is important, only 56 percent of Americans who were of the voting age voted in the 2016 presidential election according to Pew Research Center. And even though approximately 245 million Americans were of age to vote that year, only 157.6 million were actually registered.
Voting is a guaranteed way for your voice can be heard. While there are many ways to practice activism, such as peaceful protests, letters and phone calls to senators, and running for office yourself, voting is actually one of the easiest ways to participate in politics.
There are many hot button issues in which become relevant around election season. If you feel strongly and passionately about a specific subject, your vote can affect who is elected and able to act on that subject you so care about.
It's also important to remember that the younger generation is voting for the future. The younger vote in elections is incredibly influential, as they're the generation who will be reaping the effects of their elected officials. This includes combating climate change, reducing student loan debt, anti-discrimination laws and more.
Does my vote actually matter?
The short answer is yes, it does!
Many elections have come down to a very small difference in voter numbers. In 2009, Senator Al Franken won his seat by only 312 votes. In 2008, a single vote out of 10,035 decided the Alaska congressional race. And in 1974, two votes out of 102,066 decided the Senate election in New Hampshire.
Why should women vote?
The original constitution only allowed approximately 6 percent of the American population the right to vote: property-owning or tax-paying white males.
Women began fighting for their right to vote in the 1820s and 30s. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were female advocates for women’s suffrage during this time. But they were also only advocating for white females.
The National American Woman Suffrage Association was founded in 1890 with Stanton as president. In 1910, certain states in the west, like Idaho and Utah, began granting women the right to vote.
And on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granted the right to vote to 8 million women in the United States. They then were able to vote for the first time on November 2 of that year.
Today, the two major political parties are divided over issues that solely affect women. Reproductive rights, access to affordable birth control and healthcare, and more are issues being voted on in elections. Voting for a candidate means you are voting in support of that person’s beliefs and ideologies and the way she will advocate and use her political power.
How do I decide who to vote for?
In today’s day and age, there are an unlimited amount of resources on the internet dedicated to helping you decide how you should vote based on your beliefs. In presidential elections, as well as in congressional elections, in special elections and more.
The website ISideWith.Com offers quizzes you can take to see which candidate you most align with.
The quizzes will ask your stance on major issues involved with the election and will pair you with the candidate whose positions best match yours. The site also defines key issues and shows you how other people in your location feel about them as well. It provides helpful statistics and links to help you make the most informed decision possible.
What types of elections are there?
General Elections are held each year in November on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month. Registered voters cast their ballots for federal, state and local representatives. This includes U.S. senators, representative to Congress, governor, attorney general, state treasurer and more. Odd-numbered years will have municipal elections where there are no federal or state officials being voted on. And every four years is the presidential election.
Primary Elections are held in April or May, depending on the year. Political parties choose their candidates who will run in the general election in November.
Special Elections are held when necessary. For example, if a person in office is for whatever reason unable to continue their position, voters will turn out to replace her/him in a special election.
OK I want to vote, but I don’t know how
First, you can check your voter registration status at Vote.org — a process that the website states takes just 30 seconds.
The site also outlines exactly what you need to do for your location in order to register to vote. It will provide the proper paperwork needed for you to complete. It outlines how to send in an absentee ballot. It will tell you the closest place to cast your vote and the hours of the place as well.
What else can I do to stay informed?
You can research each candidate and make sure you are staying up-to-date on your registration deadlines. You can watch the candidate debates if they are taking place for that specific election. You can fill out a sample ballot and bring it with you to the polls to ease the process and ensure you vote how you intend to upon arrival.
Reasons why voting is important for all citizens
1. As we mentioned before, a lot of brave people in the history of this country have fought for their right to vote, especially women, minorities, Native Americans and more.
2. It is an effective way of fighting for your beliefs and for the direction you think your country should be headed.
3. Your own rights could be in jeopardy by your own elected officials who may disagree with your views.
4. You can truly make a change.
5. Your one vote does matter.