At 6 a.m. the polls open on voting day. More than 100 precincts scatter across Columbia. In August, 99,934 people registered to vote, yet only 37,305 casted their ballot. With polling places open for 13 hours and the vast amount of easy-access areas to vote, why wasn’t the outcome greater? The simple answer: people do not feel like their voices matter.
The sad fact is the more people who believe this misleading idea, the fewer people vote and the more weighted the decision becomes for those who do exercise their right. When eligible voters decide to stay away from the ballot, they inhibit the purpose of democracy: for everyone to have a say in the issues that affect them.
Not only do these issues affect individuals, but also entire communities, counties, states and the entire country.
The government has control over public schools, roads, taxes, medication and even air. Every single decision made impacts not only the voter, but everyone around them, as well.
Yet, having some aspect of control over U.S. representatives and legislature still does not appeal to the large amount of people who did not vote in August or in the 2016 or 2012 presidential elections. Even if citizens feel like their voice matters, many decided not to go to the polls because they did not care.
Whether the non-voters were apathetic because they disliked the candidates or weren’t interested in the subjects on the ballot, a large population — nearly 100 million people in 2016 — decided voting was not worth their time. The majority of people, Pew Research Center found, do not regret their decision to refrain from voting. As divided as the United States is today, non-voters should not only regret their decision to abstain, but they should be shunned for that decision.
Two-hundred and seventy-two years ago, residents of the United States would kill for the privileges we have as a nation now — and they did. “No taxation without representation.” “Give me liberty or give me death.” Popular sayings like these followed the inhabitants of the 13 colonies as they fought to become their own nation. Centuries later, Americans are forgetting their roots and are bringing shame to the ancestors of the United States who fought for the rights we take for granted today.
When an eligible voter decides to ignore the opportunity to vote, they are backtracking the progress the United States has made as a society, regardless of political affiliation. In 2016, Clinton received 28.43 percent of all votes and Trump 27.20 percent. 44.37 percent of people abstained from voting altogether. If this percentage was its own candidate, “Did Not Vote” would have won the presidential election. Almost half of eligible voters did not vote for their choice of the president of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the military, the figurehead of our country.
There is no reasonable excuse for any U.S. citizen 18 years or older not to vote not only because of their civic duty, but because of how easy registration is. In Columbia, voters can register at 17 ½ years old either online, by mail, the Associated Students of the University of Missouri Office in the basement of Brady Commons, University of Missouri—Columbia campus or at the Boone County Government Center. There are also several voter registration tables at public events as Roots n’ Blues hosted in September. The ease of registering to vote provides citizens with an easy-in to exercising their rights, though registration already closed for midterm elections on Nov. 6.
On voting day itself, the polls are open for the convenience of voters. The Secretary of State provides all voters with assistance in getting a valid Missouri non-drivers license and will cover the cost of any documents required to get the ID. Waiting in line to vote in Missouri has an average time of 11 minutes, according to the Missouri Secretary of State, but wait time depends on the time of day one goes to the polls.
Whether an eligible voter is far left, moderate, right-winged or doesn’t quite align with any label on the political spectrum, he or she still needs to voice his or her opinion. The U.S. democracy began out of a lack of representation. As a nation, eligible voters need to keep the history of fighting for representation in mind when choosing to cop-out on something that will affect them and everyone around them no matter how minuscule the decision seems.
Did you vote this election? Were you old enough to vote? Let us know in the comments below!