For most Americans, the right to vote was not a right that came easily. Unless you were a white, landowning male, this right was not automatically guaranteed – you had to fight for it.
And yet, during most elections, less than half of the eligible voters turn out to exercise their right.
On Nov. 5, in Allegheny County only 28.8% of eligible voters participated in the election. That is just over a quarter of the eligible voters. A quarter of community members decided how things were going to be run. The opportunity to voice concerns was there, and 71.2% of people did not take advantage of that.
On average, general elections, like the one on Tuesday, tend to have a lower voter turnout than primary or presidential elections.
The 2018 primary election saw the greatest voter turnout since 1914 at 49.3%. Half the amount of eligible voters, is the highest in over a hundred years. Imagine what the impact on politics could be if 75% or even 90% of voters went to the polls.
While general elections don’t seem like the most exciting of elections, politics starts at the local level. General elections, are the ones that directly affect the day-to-day lives of the community members. This is the one chance where citizens get to have a say in how things operate – don’t squander that.
While turnout for the 2016 presidential election hit an estimated 55.5%, it is just as important, if not more to vote in local general elections. These are the elections that shape the policies where you live, that directly influence how the lives of the voters are.
Does your town have a public transportation problem? Maybe a change in county officials can fix that. Is there an issue within the local judicial system? Voting in a new judge could fix that.
It is the local elections where community members get to shape the way they live through voting.
A common reason for not voting is that people often believe that their one vote doesn’t matter. But when you have nearly 150,000 people with that mindset, those votes do matter.
Many people often cite their job or being too busy as reasons not to vote, but people can always vote on an absentee ballot. The absentee ballot is a mail in, which allows people to still work on Election Day.
The importance here is that if we as citizens don’t exercise our rights, we risk losing them. Even with something as fundamentally American as voting. At some point, voter turnout could sink so low that people start to wonder if it’s even worth it. The answer – it is. It is worth it, and it is worth the lines and jumping through hoops to register or to get an absentee ballot or to find a ride to your local precinct. It is all worth it.
There are very few chances for citizens to participate in our government as directly as we can with voting. We live in a crucial political time, and should exercise our right every change we get