I learned the definition of apathy in 7th grade. My U.S. History teacher warned us that the highest form of apathy, in her book, was to take for granted your privilege to vote. I was twelve, and government was some abstract entity that was perfectly conceived by our all-knowing Forefathers and acceptably executed by wise and well-meaning government officials. My comfortable upper-middle class upbringing did nothing to disabuse me of these assumptions. I had a TV to plug my Nintendo into and a soccer field to play on. What else does a twelve year old need?
Over the last 20 years, I’ve done my share of voting — mostly in the big Presidential elections. I may be a member of Generation X, but I’m not a complete slacker. Ironically, I never saw the importance of voting in other elections, especially local ones. So, maybe I am a slacker. But I’ve turned over a new leaf, and so can you. In case you need some convincing, here are 6 reasons you should vote:
1) Not everyone has the right to vote in a fairly counted election. Hanging chads aside, the US has a pretty decent and fair election process. At least I know that I won’t be harassed as I walk to my polling station (if I even know where it is), and that my vote will be counted as I cast it. Recent election disasters in Kenya and Afghanistan remind us that we’re lucky.
2) People fought for my right to vote. Women have had the right to vote in the U.S. for less than 100 years. Prior to 1920, they were fighting for women’s right to vote, not for our right to take it for granted. As a woman, I feel deeply grateful to everyone who fought for my right to vote, and I often think that exercising that right is some small form of repayment for all of their struggles.
3) Your vote does count! When I haven’t voted, I’ve often told myself that my vote would have been just one in a sea of thousands, so no one would miss it. Imagine if everyone used this line of thinking. One vote means everything, and without your vote our election process is that much weaker. Whatever your political leanings, please stand up and be counted.
4) You’ll be more infomed. Thoughtful voting takes effort. Anyone can stand in a voting booth and check the boxes, but it takes time to truly understand the candidates and issues. Listen to debates, check out candidates’ websites, read endorsements and opinions, talk with your friends, and ignore negative political ads. This goes for the national elections as well as your local community elections. You can’t come away from this process without being more informed than when you started, and information is power.
5) Support local-ness. Supporting local businesses and initiatives is all the rage these days. And for a reason! Everything starts with your local community. Take some time to understand the issues that are facing your community as well as the work of your state and local government representatives. Find out what your taxes are funding. You might not like what you find out. And if you don’t, vote to change it.
6) “I voted” Foursquare badge. Just in case you weren’t convinced, Foursquare has created an “I voted” badge for anyone who checks in at a polling station. Yes, we’re all badge-motivated. Get yours!
Election day is tomorrow, and you still have time to do some research, find your polling station, and VOTE! In case you need a slogan to get you motivated, I’ve borrowed one from my friend, Kriste, a fellow Generation X-er with a strong sense of commuity and citizenship: “Get rad and vote.” Need I say more?