Voting is inconvenient, time-consuming, ineffectual, and doesn’t really affect my life. At least, that is what my eighteen-year-old privileged mind thought.
I went to a great school, lived in a safe and supportive community, and was dating someone in the police academy whom I loved more than life. The cops were our neighbors and friends. The only black kid I knew well in my school was adored by everyone.
I didn’t know any openly gay people, so homophobia wasn’t on my radar of things to be concerned about. Racism was not something I ever witnessed, so naively I didn’t believe it was a profoundly dominant issue.
As far as I was concerned, everyone had access to a good education and the police were there to protect us. My small-town bubble of bliss had made me blindly unaware of the countless injustices ravaging the world.
So, when I finally reached the legal age to vote, I had no interest. My theory was that registering and casting the ballot takes too much effort and time. Would my singular opinion truly impact anything? Probably not.
When I told my father I wasn’t going to vote, his face crumpled with shock and disappointment. I had never experienced a look of dissatisfaction like that from him, and I had been far from the perfect child!
He tried to explain my responsibilities now that I was eighteen, but his words were met with disinterest and despondency. My stubborn mind was made-up, and I let his rationale fall on deaf ears.
Sadly, my father passed away before I saw the world for what it truly is. When I grew to understand that our planet is far from perfect, safe, and fair, I realized that voting is my tool to facilitate change. It became obvious that my father didn’t want to see me silence myself or throw my opportunity to be heard away.
I don’t want other parents or their kids to have the same experience. Here are some essential tips for explaining to the younger generation why everyone needs to vote (AltMed 2018):
1. Elections have consequences.
You have the power to decide on the quality of life you want for yourself, your loved ones, and future generations. Voting is your chance to stand up for the issues you care about, such as public transportation, raising the minimum wage, or funding local schools. This is your life, and you are accountable for helping to shape the welfare of the world.
2. Not Voting is giving up your voice.
Elections are decided by the people who go out and vote. Take some time and learn about the measures and the candidates. If you don’t, then someone else will decide for you. Your power is in your voice and your vote.
3. It’s your money.
You pay your taxes, but do you know how that money is really being used? Most people don’t. Voting is your chance to choose how your tax dollars are spent, so use your voice to funnel the funds towards those vital services such as health care and social amenities.
4. Voting is an opportunity for change.
Do you want to make a positive impact? Voting gives you that chance! Support the candidates and ballot measures that can help your community, the state, and even the nation for the greater good. Elections are your chance to make your voice heard loud and clear.
5. The community needs you.
Our communities are made up of friends, loved ones, neighbors, and children. Some may not know how important voting is, while others don’t have the privilege of partaking. Make the decision to vote for yourself and for those around you.
“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote”
– George Jean Nathan
Studies show that building a relationship with the political process as early as possible is the key to making voting a lifelong habit.
We must make it a priority to educate our youth on the importance of voting as soon as they are old enough to understand. We need to be the change we want to see in the world, and to do this, we must show up at the polls.
Now, more than ever, we need to make our voices heard!
Here are a few helpful links: