One of the most common reasons people mention for not voting is the belief that their vote won’t make a difference. However, there are many real-life examples where even one vote has made all the difference. It is not uncommon to see city council members, school board trustees, members of the board of supervisors, or district members (all of which ultimately shape our community) be elected by a single vote. Former Secretary of State, Bill Jones is quoted as saying “Had less than two voters per precinct voted for a different candidate, I would not be your Secretary of State today.” President Truman carried Ohio and California by less than one vote per precinct, which gave him enough electoral votes to win the presidency in 1948. Similarly, John F. Kennedy would have been defeated in 1960 with a single vote change per election district in only 12 states.
In the 2009 Virginia Gubernatorial Elections, only 39.8% of the registered voters actually voted, making it the lowest turn out in fort years. The lowest participation rates normally coming from 18-35 year olds, minorities, the unemployed, and those with the lowest income levels. With less than half of the registered voters actually making their voice heard, how can we expect the elected officials to represent the majority?
Voting is not only an essential part of a democratic government, but it is an act of patriotism that shows you care enough about the direction of the country to exercise the power available to you to make your voice heard. It is a right that our men and women in uniform have fought and died for, and one of the most important things a responsible citizen can do for their community and country.
Eligible voters who don’t vote give up their right to complain when the government doesn’t act on their behalf. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, a democracy ensures “a government of the people, by the people, for the people”, but this requires the people to actively participate in the shaping of the government both through the electoral process, and through holding the elected officials accountable to the pledges they make.
So tomorrow I challenge you to make your voice heard, and your vote count, so that the officials that take office, and shape our communities over the next few years truly represent our interests. And remember, if you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.