Voting is the cornerstone of a democracy but sadly far too few people vote.
- There remains wide gaps between those who do vote which undermines representative democracy.
For the past three decades voters have been disproportionately of higher income, older or more partisan in their interests. Parallel to participation gaps are widening gaps in wealth, reduced opportunity for youth and frustration with the polarization in politics. How would our world be different if everyone participated?
- Much of this gap is due to communities left uninformed about elections.
There are large gaps in who gets contacted in an election campaign. Millions of Americans, especially those served by the nonprofit sector, report not being reached by traditional campaign tactics like a phone bank.
- Not only so, voter participation is a learned activity.
A fact that stands out in the literature is the powerful influence of families in voter and civic participation. As service providers and advocates, we can be too. New voters need our help finding their poll, a number to call for help, learning their voting options and understanding what’s on the ballot or the impact of this election on the issues they care about. It’s also true that communities who have been traditionally underrepresented in the democratic process often face significant barriers to voting, both discriminatory and inadvertent (we move a lot). It is these people who are least likely to understand the process that we serve.
- A functioning Democracy is critical to our Nonprofit Goals and Civic Missions.
The independent sector depends as much as any on good government and fair and open elections. Democracy is something we can’t take for granted. It needs our help. Nonprofits are more likely to thrive in an environment where government is held in higher esteem and people are more likely to participate in and trust democracy.
But why vote?
Voting matters both to the health of the American political system and to the people who participate in it.
Elected officials know who votes.
If your community is turning out well below other neighborhoods, elected officials will pay less attention, make fewer appearances and fewer appeals to your neighborhoods. Who votes has a powerful impact on public policy and government. Your constituents have policy and political concerns – whether the direction of an issue or priorities of public budgets – that won’t be heard if they don’t vote.
- Voting also carries Benefits to those who Participate in it.
People who vote are associated with a host of positive civic, health and social factors.
Among the most studied are that voters are known to be more engaged in other activities like volunteering or contacting their election official. They are more informed about local affairs and a contributor to their neighborhood’s “social capital.” Voters live in communities where there is more trust and people have contact with their neighbors. They are more concerned about their communities and peers and have a greater sense of their ability to impact the world around them.
While these are correlations that work both ways, voting is an important part.
The U.S. was founded on the principles of democratic participation that guaranteed the right of all citizens to have a roll in shaping government and the rule of law. It took almost two centuries to deliver on the guarantees in our Constitution, especially to women and people of color, but now we face a new challenge - the majority of young people don't vote. Why is youth voting important? Read on to find eight (of many reasons) that teens should register to vote when they are 17 and vote when they are 18 - your vote matters!
1. You can be in charge
How many times have you wished your parents couldn't tell you what to do? That you could choose what you studied in school? That you could stay out as late as you wanted to? Voting gives you the power to make important choices. You get to decide what you like and don't like and let your voice be heard.
2. You should be the one to shape your future
On a similar point, you guys should be the ones to shape your futures. Most adults don't understand the teen perspective. They are confused by our high tech era, our fashion, our interests. If you fail to vote, you are yielding the ultimate power to adults to make decisions about the leaders and laws that will shape and lead society for decades, and you can be sure that those decisions won't be congruent with the teen psyche and perspective.
3. Voting is an important right
Think about all the countries in the world that don't have democratic political institutions - countries like Syria, the Congo, and Cuba. In such countries, citizens are denied the right to vote and have their voice heard, and they don't even have the option to shape their government and their future. We are immensely lucky to live in a country that was founded on democratic values and it's an insult to our Founding Fathers to forgo our voting rights. You don't want to insult our Founding Fathers, do you?
4. If you don't vote, you lose your right to complain
If you don't vote, you could end up with a potted plant elected President, or even worse, Donald Trump. If you choose not to vote, you automatically waive your right to complain. Voting demonstrates your good faith attempt to get the political outcome you desire, and gives you every right to complain if things don't go your way on a key ballot measure. If you don't vote - shut it!
5. Don't be a voting slacker
Democracy doesn't work without citizen participation, yet about 40% of Americans don't exercise their right to vote in the general election. Even fewer vote in in primary and local elections. It's up to Gen Z to change this. We must revitalize the American democracy and show the older generations the importance of voting by casting our own votes.
6. It's an important skill to learn
You'll be voting for the rest of your life. Casting well-considered votes is something you will want to teach to your friends, family, and children, so why not start now? It's not very hard! Master the skills now so that you can begin to perfect and share this important practice in the future. No more hanging chads.
7. It helps you stay engaged with politics and current events
How many times have you wished you were more in tune with politics and current events for your history class, SAT essay, or family discussion? Committing to voting is a shortcut to greater engagement in the political world around you. It will keep you connected with the news as you follow politicians and key policy initiatives.
8. You just should!
Don't waive your right to vote. Register. Follow the news. And, when election day comes around, cast your ballot.
Now, more than ever, it is essential that young people take advantage of their right to vote, creating a future that aligns with their fundamental beliefs and setting a precedent for future generations.
Follow Grace Masback on Twitter: www.twitter.com/grace_masback