Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Vote, if only for your right to complain

Over the past few months, I’ve learned how to ignore the litany of election-related Facebook posts that overwhelm my newsfeed: stay off Facebook. That, I have found, is the only way.
But every once in a while, I log on. And every once in a while, I come across a comment that—as Peter Griffin would say—grinds my gears.
One comment in particular was so egregiously wrong that it warrants dismantling via column.
No, it wasn’t a lengthy tirade against Hillary Clinton and her “damn emails”. (Those are a dime a dozen.) No, it wasn’t a long-winded, grammatically unsound endorsement of Donald Trump and how his (apocryphal) business acumen would serve our country well. (Those aren’t as common, but way more common than they should be.)
No, it wasn’t long and drawn-out. It was just five words. Nor was it partisan in nature. It had nothing to do with either leading candidate, or either major party.
“Not voting is voting too.”
The cynics who would agree with my friend who wrote this would perhaps point to a line in the song “Freewill” by Rush: “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Well, Rush was right, but the choice you make by not choosing, by not voting, is not one that would sit well with most people: when you choose to forfeit your franchise on November 8, you choose to silence your own voice on January 20 (Inauguration Day), and every day thereafter until November 3, 2020 (Election Day 2020).
In other words, when you choose to give up your right to decide in the most important decision our nation must make this year (and perhaps this decade), then you choose to not be represented in Washington.
If you think this is a preposterous claim I’m making, just look at what our federal government has failed to do: reform student loan servicing, increase the minimum wage, enact paid family leave for new parents.
Wonder why? Because these are all measures that would benefit a segment of the electorate the majority of which choose to not vote: young people.
According to NPR, only about 46 percent of eligible millennial voters actually voted in the last presidential election. Why should we expect our elected officials to represent those who apparently don’t want to be represented?
Only when we vote can we press our President, can we complain to our Congress.
When you choose to not vote, you choose to contribute to the dismal voter turnout that is perhaps our country’s greatest embarrassment—yes, even more embarrassing than Donald Trump.
I understand that there are issues with our country’s voting system—issues that the cynics protest by boycotting the ballot box. To name a few of these issues:
  • The antiquated Electoral College that makes it possible for a President to be elected with only a minority of the popular vote
  • The winner-take-all system that solidifies states as either red or blue, with no in-between “violet states” (except for Maine and Nebraska)
  • The photo ID laws in some states that disenfranchises many minority and low-income citizens
  • The gerrymandering that perpetuates partisanism by favoring the party already in control
  • The day on which we vote—a workday in one of the coldest months of the year—that suppresses the already dismal voter turnout

The cynics say that not voting is a valid form of protest against these grievances. Again, they are wrong: the only way that we can begin to change things for the better—be they voting rights or gerrymandering or student loans—is by voting for those who will vote for change.
Not voting is not voting. Not voting is not acceptable. Not voting is not going to work.

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Vote, if only for your right to complain