With midterms coming up, the plea to get potential voters registered is in full swing. Facebook ads, billboards, radio ads — you name it! People everywhere are rallying around our country's young to convert them into soon-to-be first-time voters. While this propaganda is mainly targeted towards our youth, the importance of voting is stressed to every contender who has not yet registered.
I remember exactly how I felt when I learned that I could register to vote at the age of 17. I felt mature, excited, involved, important, but I mostly felt responsible. Finally, after all the years of tagging along to the polls, I would get my turn to finalize my own choices with a swift click of the square, light up buttons. I knew that when Election Day rolled around I would proudly fulfill my civic duty of voting. I'll be honest, I was thrilled by the idea of sporting a fresh "I voted!" sticker all day. I wanted people to know that I voted.
When I thought about the long, obstacle-filled history of voting rights, it felt disrespectful to even consider not voting. As a woman, the fact that I wouldn't have even been allowed to vote before 1920 lights an intense fire under me to exercise this right. Honestly, the idea of voting being a privilege to very few for most of our country's history is a big enough slap in the face to not take voting for granted.
As much as voting mattered, and still matters, to me, I know that political apathy runs far and wide amongst much of my generation. The general attitude that I've observed is not just personally upsetting, it's also problematic. Whether it's not wanting to put in the effort to register or not voting even after being registered, this disinterest in our civic responsibility is unsettling. I often hear the "I'm just not into politics" phrase thrown out as an excuse, but it really isn't an excuse at all. I'm not saying you have to be informed down to all the minute details of every party or recite the candidates on the spot, but some concern would go a long way. Even if you claim to not care about politics, you're still being affected by it daily.
Although I like to keep myself informed about what's going on in the political arena, I don't believe everyone needs to be an avid observer to keep up with key issues. Obviously, the political climate can often be very toxic and draining, but the issues at stake don't always have to be. As citizens of this country, there are economic, social, and political issues we face that shape the way we live our lives day-to-day. While these issues are often complex and sometimes uncomfortable, they affect us. Not caring doesn't make them disappear, and it doesn't make them any less important. At the bare minimum, it's in everyone's best interest to be aware of the issues currently up for discussion.
Knowing some information about the issues at hand is also important in order to gauge which candidates you mostly align with. Everyone has opinions. Everyone has beliefs. Since there are often many, many candidates running for the same position, an easy way to navigate through them is to focus on a couple of major topics that concern you. Again, even if you "don't follow politics," I'm fairly certain you might follow two or three issues. The stance candidates take on these matters should provoke you to vote for them. How else are you going to make your opinions and beliefs count?
Another alleged reason people are so quick to blow off voting is due to the widespread dissatisfaction with our government. I hate to break it to you, but our government can't be improved without our choosing to help improve it. One of the greatest things about our government is that it's a Democracy, which means we get a say in how we want to be governed. Not everyone has that luxury; in fact, many people are forced to accept any and all of their government's decisions, end of story. If these people don't like something, they can't just roll up to the voting booth to try to solve their problem, but you can. There is real, legitimate potential power to push for change through your vote.
This leads me to the undeniably most irritating aspect of this civic disengagement: the complaining. I'll be the first to admit that I do an embarrassing amount of complaining about the government. However, I feel slightly justified in my complaints because I vote. There's a saying that's been floating around the Internet for some time, "If you don't vote, don't complain," and man, this saying is on the money! If you're so unhappy with the way things progress, then don't you think it's worth voting? Sure, writing your governor, senators, representatives, or maybe even the president is a good option, but voting takes much less effort. For someone who "doesn't like politics," I doubt reaching out to government officials is your shtick, anyway. Of course, there's never a guarantee that your candidate will win, but at least you did your part to try to alleviate your complaints.
I can't make you register to vote. I can't make you vote. I can't even make you care. I only hope that I can make you think; think about the gravity of voting and what it means personally for you. You don't have to be buried under the soul-crushing weight of political debacle to still remain in the know. The issues we face as a country are far larger than any one candidate or political party, and it is our responsibility to take these issues seriously. By voting, you're empowering yourself to act upon your opinions and beliefs.