Voting: A Responsibility of Democracy

Ashley Sysyn

Since its conception, America has acted as a beacon of democracy. It was among the first nations to have a peaceful shift of power after its first election and paved the way for change all across the world. People took pride in voting. They were contributing to their government, and they had a say in the future of their nation as well as the lives of future generations. If you were able to vote, you did vote. It was simple. The government was supposed to represent the people that it governed, and it could not do that if not everyone was present in the voting population. Today, with voter turnout on the decline, people are getting worried about the future of the American government.

For the past 40 years, the population of eligible citizens that come out to the voting polls has been hovering at around 52%, only 4% higher than our nation’s all-time low in 1924. There are a lot of reasons that people cite for neglecting the ballot. Almost 20% of registered people that didn’t vote cited “too busy” or “conflicting schedule” as their main reason. This may be because voting day always falls on a Tuesday. That made sense in the 1800’s, when people were unable to travel on the Sabbath and it took the average person forever to travel to the voting site. But now, when Tuesday falls in the middle of the workweek and it takes no longer than an hour to reach a voting center, it does not make sense. Additionally, most states (27) do not require any sort of paid time off to full-time workers who want to fulfill their civic duty. People who rely on working income will not be able to take off of work in order to contribute to their country, which prevents low-income households from voting. If we want to let a greater majority of the country vote, then Election Day should be held on a weekend, so people would not have to take off of work.

The second most cited reason for not voting is “illness or disability.” Almost 1 million Americans will be admitted to a hospital in the days leading up to Election Day due to unexpected accidents. As they did not plan to be lying in a hospital bed, they would not have applied for a mail-in ballot, due the week before. Meanwhile, “emergency absentee ballots” are a pain to obtain, and must be submitted by 9:00 p.m. on Election Day. When someone is in the hospital, the last thing that they want to do is go through such a tedious process, especially with a time constraint. To solve this issue, and encourage more people to vote, there should be small voting centers within medical centers to accommodate those that are unable to leave the hospital.

After “illness and disability” comes “disinterest” with 13.4% of nonvoters claiming apathy; another 13% of people claim that they disliked candidates running, which stopped them from voting. This is an attitude shared by thousands of American nonvoters. Even though someone may not like their options – a common dilemma because politicians aren’t the most loved group – they still have the obligation to choose. With America’s two party systems relying heavily on two extremes, it is likely that the candidates will disagree on major issues. Even if it boils down to which candidate you hate less, the vote ensures that your least favorite person does not come into power.

Of course, these are not just problems found on the national levels. Voting turnout within our own school could also be improved. This year’s class officer elections showed that 52% of the freshmen class voted, 59% of the sophomores did, and only 40% of the junior class cast votes. “Honestly, I didn’t know about it until lunch on voting day, and by then it was too late,” Morris Hills junior, Ally Drewes said. “I didn’t know the candidates or their platforms, so I didn’t vote.” Sadly, this is true for many students at Morris Hills. This kind of apathy amongst high school teenagers will pave the way for apathetic adults, who choose to not fulfill their duty as citizens under a democracy. They will choose not to exercise their right to contribute to their government. We need to start taking an interest in our futures now, while we still can.