These days, fall 2020, if you take a walk around downtown Boston, you’ll see that every store, café or restaurant has a poster, sticker, or an entire booklet with the word “vote” on it. When it comes close to an election those of us who understand the importance of voting try to spread the word and make sure those who didn’t think about voting will change their mind and do so.
But why voting is important?
Let’s look at the history of the United States.
Right now, American citizens over the age of 18 can vote in state and federal elections, but it wasn’t always like this. Up until the 20th century disenfranchised groups of people, including women, formerly enslaved peoples, people of color, and others, were excluded from voting. It took a long time for the United States to reach the point where almost every citizen is eligible to vote. Having such an opportunity now, why not make your voice heard? Many of us might think that one vote isn’t important, but think about it this way: if you take 1 cent out of a dollar is it still a dollar? One percent out of a hundred means a lot.
In 1988 in the Massachusetts Governor’s Council Democratic Primary Election, Herbert Connolly lost to Robert Kennedy by just one vote. And that vote was his own. Connolly wasn’t able to drop off his ballot due to him arriving late to the polls. In 2002 Kevin Entze, a police officer from Washington state, lost to Ed Mitchell in the GOP primary by one vote out of 11,700. Later on, Entze found out that one of his coworkers left their ballot on the kitchen counter and never happened to mail it. That one missing vote caused Entze a loss in the election.
Every two years between the year 2010 and 2016 in the election for Vermont House of representatives, the race between David Ainsworth and Sarah Buxton, the final results depended on just a small number of votes, in some cases just a few. In 2010 Buxton won with 882 votes against 881 for Ainsworth. In 2012 she won again with 1,113 vs. 917 for Ainsworth. In 2014, 743 votes were cast for Buxton and 677 for Ainsworth. Lastly in 2016 Ainsworth won with the difference of just two votes; 1,005 against 1,003 for Buxton.
These are great examples of why every vote, including yours, matters.
Suffolk University is a place where everyone is proud to participate in voting. They also encourage all students and employees to vote. During the fall semester of 2020 an activist group known as “Suffolk Votes” has been running social media accounts to interact with students and spread information about everything related to the upcoming election. Suffolk Votes’ ambassadors, who are mostly students with an active interest in politics, are doing class raps. During those raps they’re helping students to register to vote online. Suffolk University is proud of the increasing number of students who are willing to use their constitutional rights to participate in the voting prosses. During the 2016 General election 83% of Suffolk students were registered to vote and 67% of them voted, which helped the university to earn a silver seal student voting rate from the All-in Campus Democracy Challenge.
Voting is our civil right and duty. Making your voice heard affects not only your own life and future but also your community’s. Please be sure to exercise your right to vote this November or sooner. Take advantage of the opportunity so many people in the United States fought for, demanded, and have guaranteed to you now.
Everything You Need to Vote. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.vote.org/
Montanaro, D. (2018, November 03). Why Every Vote Matters – The Elections Decided By A Single Vote (Or A Little More). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2018/11/03/663709392/why-every-vote-matters-the-elections-decided-by-a-single-vote-or-a-little-more
National Geographic Society. (2020, March 17). Why Voting Is Important. Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/why-voting-important/
Sarah Buxton. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://ballotpedia.org/Sarah_Buxton
Suffolk Votes. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.suffolk.edu/student-life/student-involvement/community-public-service/suffolk-votes
A good question that is presented by this blog; does raising voter participation start with those who can but don’t because they aren’t informed, don’t feel represented by our 2 party system, or are otherwise disillusioned or does it start with those who wish to vote but actively can’t due to their disenfranchisement? The problem is certainly two fold, with voter disenfranchisement certainly playing a big factor into voter disillusionment; but I wonder as a policy guy means to benefit each group or rather what policies can be implemented quickly to kickstart change across the board. Very happy to see your focus here, on the voter at a college; if they can get involved and make voting a sort of honored culture can’t we all?
Thank you for reading my post. I didn’t expect it to attract that many readers.
I think that it is important to mention disenfranchise groups as it is something lots of people don’t even think about. A privilege of being eligible to vote might motivate some people to do so.
I also worked with Suffolk Votes as an Ambassador, and am currently also working on a Social Media campaign to help work against the notion that one individual vote doesn’t matter. I really like your approach to combating this idea, using specific examples and recent ones as well. Your references back to disenfranchisement and the long history of securing basic voting rights for all helps in this message as well. It’ll be interesting to see how voter turnout, specifically the youth vote, fluctuates in coming years, and to find out the best ways to make it happen.
Hi Cam! Thanks for reading my post. I am happy that it attracted some attention and wish that people who aren’t involved into political study could read it. In that case it could really motivate some eligible citizens, who wasn’t about to vote, vote. Less then a week left till the day X and I’ve lost my sleep waiting for the results.
An interesting point you bring up is why people choose not to vote and what one vote may symbolize. I think when learning about voting and the general concept, it may be easy for someone to conclude that their vote won’t be influential as they are one of many, but as you mentioned, one vote may affect the whole election. There are also the people who are unaware of how to register and vote, while some may not be able to due to their state’s requirements to vote. In these cases, you see voter suppression happening in the modern-day despite the numerous movements that have taken place to grant different groups suffrage. The importance of voting also starts at the local level that many don’t participate in, and by not being familiar with the process then, they may be more intimidated to engage in voting. I really appreciate the work that Suffolk Votes and the general advocating seem to go out and vote. I think having provided support and resources rather than just telling people to vote, help people feel more confident about how to vote and the overall vote.
Hi Aya! Thank you for finding time to read this post. Suffolk Votes was an interesting experience and I want to believe we convinced many people to participate in upcoming election. I knew nothing about registration to vote until I joined the activist group and I can only imagine how many other people had no idea about this process as well. States’ websites look very confusing if you don’t have someone who can guid you through.
I don’t see this kind of argument being made very often, but it is relevant: Literally every vote counts. There is always the chance that an election may come down to just a few votes. I think this is a useful argument to sway some of those who are skeptical about voting. It plants a clear image in the mind of the reader of a single ballot being left behind or left untouched, pushing the election one way or the other. Hopefully this argument speaks to at least some people and helps demonstrate why civic engagement matters.
As a member of Suffolk Votes as well, I think I will bring up this point whenever I can. Certainly an interesting take and an interesting perspective; very nice blog post, thanks for discussing this relevant topic.
Thank you very much for reading my post and your kind opinion about the topic. I found those “one vote matters” examples during my research for this project and was fascinated by the stories. I wish I could have more class raps left to share those stories with students to convince some of them to not leave their important voices behind. I’m happy that you and other students enjoyed the job I’ve done and hope that those stories will be something you’ll share with others even after the election.