If Voting Didn't Matter

"Voting doesn't matter," said a friend of mine. "The game is rigged. The parties are the same, two heads on the same corporately-owned beast. Your choices at the voting booth don't matter." This mindset is pervasive, especially amongst those most politically disaffected. Indeed, voter turnout at its best doesn't even hit 2/3 of the eligible U.S. population on presidential elections and barely clears 40 percent during the midterms. And people 65 and older vote in far greater numbers than 18-24 year olds, who disenfranchise themselves by sitting out in the greatest numbers of all eligible voters. All because they think it does not matter. Then they wonder why the people in office don't represent them, a tragedy of disconnect if there ever was one. Truth is, if 100 percent of 18-24 year olds decided to vote in the next election, they would landslide whatever candidates they backed and transform the country to their liking. And here is one big reason why they should: Citizens United.

Yes, Citizens United vs FEC, that wonderful case that the Supreme Court handed to deep-pocketed billionaires to spend unlimited amounts on elections. According to the FEC, $7 billion dollars was spent on the 2012 campaign and trends indicate that 2016 will most likely greatly exceed that amount. And that giant pile of money begs the simple question: If voting didn't matter, why would anyone waste $7 billion dollars trying to convince you to do it? Or make it harder for you to do?

Truth is, our Constitution was amended multiple times to give the right to vote to its citizens (1868) regardless of race (1870) or sex (1920) and making it legal at age 18 (1971). So if you were a black, 18-year-old woman in 1971, you were finally fully enfranchised to vote. But in 2014, will you exercise that right? From the New York Times:

But the challenge for Democrats is that many single women do not vote, especially in non-presidential election years like this one. While voting declines across all groups in midterm contests for Congress and lower offices, the drop-off is steepest for minorities and unmarried women. The result is a turnout that is older, whiter and more conservative than in presidential years.

Any wonder why your representatives in Congress don't actually represent you? Anybody that is not older, whiter and more conservative who votes in the midterms should know that their vote carries more weight by sheer percentage. Accordingly, any voting bloc under retirement age that turns out en masse can swing any election. Whether it be 18-24 year olds, single women, Blacks, Hispanics, or LGBT supporters, our current voter participation is so low that it's easier than ever to make a huge difference. If you don't like big money in politics, you don't have to buy into what they're selling. Don't like that the Koch brothers are funding Super PAC's all over? Find out who they're supporting and vote against them. Don't know how to follow the money? There's an app for that. But remember that billions of dollars are being spent on elections because voting matters. Meaning if you are not voting, you do not matter.

Got plans for November 4th? Whatever they are, carve out a little time to vote! Most states have laws that require private employers to give employees time off to vote, and in many of these states, the employee must be paid for this time. Check your state to see what the law is. If you have paid time off from work to vote, you have one less excuse not to do so.

A total of 36 U.S. Senate seats are up for election in 2014.

All 435 voting seats in the House are up for election.

There will also be a total of 39 Gubernatorial Elections in 36 states and three territories.

And all of them will be won or lost not just by the number of people who actually turn out to vote but even more so by those who stay home. Why hand the reigns of your democracy over to oligarchs and dark money? Here's a last word from Robert Reich:

I ran into someone this morning who said he wasn't voting in the midterms because he was 'disgusted' with politics. I told him if he doesn't vote he forfeits his right to complain. Election Day is a week from tomorrow, and in many places you can vote before then. Voting isn't just a right. It's a privilege. Yet the largest party in America isn't the Republicans or the Democrats; it's the party of non-voters.

The biggest question on the midterm ballot isn't whom you send to Washington or the state house. It's who you are and what you stand for. The biggest problem for our democracy isn't regressive Republicans or spendthrift Democrats; it's apathetic citizens. Please vote.


Side Note from My Time to Vote: Most U.S. states require voters to register before an election. Ten states plus the District of Columbia presently offer same-day registration (SDR), allowing any qualified resident of the state to go to the polls on election day, register that day, and then vote. They are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin & Wyoming. Add Utah, who has a pilot program for SDR in 2014. Two others -- North Carolina and Ohio -- allow voters to register and cast a vote during the early voting period. In most other states, voters must register by a deadline prior to Election Day. The deadline varies by state, with 30 days before the election being a common date.