I remember getting up early on Election Day in 2008 and 2012 and the lines were so long at my polling site that I was so glad my phone was charged to listen to music, and I got through several levels of Candy Crush and Temple Run. But I was so excited when it was my turn to vote; even though this was not my first time voting it felt extra special to cast my voice to what I wanted for the United States of America as my elected leader.
That next year in their respected cycles (2009 and 2013); I remember casting my vote in the primaries and general elections for City and State Governments. The lines were not long at all; some electoral districts in fact had yet to see a voter come to their table. It was rather embarrassing, especially in my neighborhood.
So why do I say this? Well the answer is very simple. We as Americans need to truly tap into our power of voting. According to Merriam-Webster the word vote means "a usually formal expression of opinion or will in response to a proposed decision; especially: one given as an indication of approval or disapproval of a proposal, motion or candidate for office." So if I am formally giving my opinion of a matter and despite how many arguments, debates or ads that I put out to society about my feelings towards the issue or person, at the end of the day I can solidify my opinion by either supporting or going against the matter.
September 23, 2014 is National Voter Registration Day, a day where we the people, encourage other people to register to vote. Register. Now I don't have any issue with that at all; in fact it's an excellent day and an excellent initiative to get our country to be aware that you have the right to register to vote. The problem is this: I register to vote, I declare my political party, now what? We usually see the maximum voter turnout for the office of the president; for many Americans feel that the leader of the land makes the greatest impact when it comes to the people. Not true. In fact, it is the state, city and local elected officials who make the greatest political impact on society.
In the State of New York on September 9th we had our State Primary elections and the voting turnout for some of the districts within the state was absolutely embarrassing. According to the NY Times coverage of the election results, you can see for yourself that the voter turnout was not what it should be. I stated on my Facebook status that I can recall some colleges' student government elections that have a greater voter turnout in some districts than those who are actually elected to serve the people of our state.
According to the NYS Registered Voter Status as of April 1, 2014, there are 4.6 million voters in NYC out of 8.7 million; half of the city's population, and 11.8 million voters across the state in total (which includes NYC). So out of 11.8 million voters that came out, less than 10 percent came out to vote. Less than 1.8 million people are determining who will be representing their fellow constituents of their districts and the state as a whole. This is a major problem.
So now comes the question: Why should I vote? Well let's put it in this format: I am the CEO of Henderson Enterprises and let's say that there are 11.8 million shareholders of my company; my company is thriving in business but I am going to make some dramatic changes that will affect the entire status of the company and I could be taking a very huge risk. I am not allowed to implement these changes unless the shareholders vote and agree to it. So I pitch my idea to the shareholders meeting and there are members of my executive board who strongly disagree with it and provide their own plan; at the end of the presentations a vote is called. If only 1.9 million of my company's shareholders vote, the results of their vote will affect the entire 11.8 million shareholders who decided not to let their voices be formally heard, which will therefore either give them a gain or a loss in their profit and the confidence in the company's leadership.
That is exactly what the power of voting does.
For many Americans, this wonderful privilege and right was fought, bled and died for all Americans to have that opportunity to formally voice one's opinion; by default, that should be enough for all of us to take the time to vote. When you don't vote, the elected officials do not, nor will not, cater to the needs of those in need because your voice is silent. A perfect example of this is individuals like me, who are college students. Colleges across the country make great strides to get students to vote, which is effective but then we don't vote. We don't vote because the question becomes: What is in it for me? Well if I am an elected official and I have my seniors, businesses, university execs, lawyers, real estate all come to me stating their needs and I don't hear from college students, well I don't give you that attention that you so crave because you don't come out to vote. Whereas, if college students were a strong voting demographic, I can 100 percent guarantee you that any elected official who is running, will have something within their platform that will address the needs of college students.
Voting not also represents your individual power as a constituent, but it highlights the power of your local community, city and state. As I said earlier, the policies that affect us the most are from the state, city and local offices. I live in Crown Heights and I can tell you that for my local council person it was decided by 16,000, which is not bad but there are over 25-30,000 registered voters in my councilmatic district. There are many prospective individuals who are ready and yearning for an opportunity to serve and we, the people vote in individuals who we are comfortable with, without doing our research and holding them accountable for their responsibilities as our elected representatives. To vote is to make your voice be heard, monies be allocated to neighborhoods and it shows the unity and power of the community.
So, my fellow registered voters, if you have not voted yet, do your research on the candidates, spread the word to encourage others to vote and vote! This is our opportunity as Americans to come out in numbers to make a difference, which therefore will put a lot of pressure on the elected officials to step their game up to the maximum. It's great to register, now let's go out and vote. Your voice does make the difference; for your quick 1 minute of action can affect the future of your city, state and nation. The choice is yours!