Why I Vote - Participation - Patriotism - Power

Why do I vote? I call it the three P's:

Participation - Patriotism - Power

I have been fascinated by voting ever since I was a little girl. The process of voting - going into a booth and closing the curtain and then choosing a candidate or issue by turning a little button seemed magical to me - like something from the Wizard of Oz. Without even understanding the ramifications of voting, the seriousness of the right to vote and all of the history attached to voting in the United States, I was hooked. I looked forward eagerly to the day when I would be that person entering the booth and voting. The concept of "One Person, One Vote" is such a fundamental right guaranteed to all US citizens by the constitution. And, as a woman, I must vote to show my appreciation for the 19th Amendment guaranteeing US women the right to vote.

Voting allows us to voice our happiness or unhappiness. It allows to change or maintain the status quo. It allows us to have an opinion and input about major issues that our country is facing. We vote to elect our highest officials - the United States President, Governors, Senators and Members of the House. Voting also allows us to participate and have a say in social, economic and political issues on a national, state or local level. Voting shapes the future of our country and can create change. And in voting, we are connected together for the greater good.

Every time I vote, I feel a sense of participation, knowing that all over our country people are engaging in the same activity. I am a member of a larger collective of people who want what is best for our country. I take my right to vote seriously. Voting means that I am engaged in what is happening in our society, that I am paying attention and that I am actively contributing to the prospects of a stronger nation. Optimism about our future comes through participation. Voting doesn't always guarantee the outcome we wish, but not voting definitely guarantees that you are not part of a solution. It is hard to complain about anything if you do not participate.

Voting is my right. Women's right to vote was earned through great struggle and sacrifice in 1920. Women had to fight hard for the right to vote, and it is not a right that I take lightly. Voting is part of my civic duty and gives me great pride as a citizen of the United States. I believe it is an honor to respect and pay homage to those who have sacrificed for our right to be free, through blood, sweat and tears, and to continue to work so hard to bring liberty, justice and equality to all. The right to vote is as much a part of our culture as The Star Spangled Banner, baseball and apple pie. I have never believed that voting is a burden. I fulfill my duty by voting. I fulfill my American pride by voting.

Voting is power. It is the power to make choices. Voting has always given me a sense of freedom to exercise my opinion and beliefs separate from anyone else. I vote as a woman and a citizen. I vote for the many before me who were not allowed to vote. I vote to connect myself to other women who just over 100 years ago were not allowed to vote. I vote to show my appreciation for my mother and many women who realized the value of a women's right to vote. And I vote so that our right to vote, still in its youth, cannot be taken away.

I vote for those who face difficulty voting, today, in our country. I vote for those who choose not to participate in the hopes that my commitment and passion might ignite in them a desire to vote. I vote so that my voice is heard, that my opinion is counted, that my hopes and dreams and aspirations for our country are recorded.

I am not always a winner in my choice of candidates or issues. But if everyone voted, then we would truly have "majority wins" elections. By not voting, by being disillusioned, by believing that your vote does not matter you allow governance of our country by a smaller group of people.

Why would you ever give up that power when it matters so much? More importantly - Why wouldn't you exercise your right to vote?

(Originally published on MariaShriver.com March 1, 2016)