By Katherine Hamilton
Digital Content Writing Fellow, RepresentUs

You’ve heard it before — every vote matters. But, it might not always feel like it.

Being one vote among millions might feel insignificant, but your voice actually has a huge impact on politicians and the laws they pass.

Here’s why you should never miss another election.

The smaller the election, the greater your impact.

Local elections happen much more frequently than congressional and presidential elections — and you have much more sway as a voter. In 2018, only about 21% of voters cast a ballot in local elections across the U.S. But, municipal-level policies actually have as much, if not more, impact on your daily life as state and federal laws.

Local vs. general election turnout

 

Voting on local ballot questions is extremely important for affecting grassroots, citizen-led change. When Congress won’t take action on a certain issue (for example, an anti-corruption issue), citizens can organize to get a question on the ballot. That’s how policies like ranked choice voting and gerrymandering restrictions have passed in many states.

What do local politics have to do with fixing America’s corrupt political system? Local change paves the way for federal change. Many of America’s most historic laws, like women’s voting rights and marriage equality, owe their success to a legislative domino effect that started with local wins.

This strategy still works — and we’re proving it. We’ve already passed over 120 local and state anti-corruption acts, and now one of the biggest, federal-level anti-corruption acts — the For the People Act — is in Congress. Join our movement and help us get the For the People Act passed now!

In close races, your vote can define the outcome.

The presidential election in 2000 was decided by a difference of 537 votes in Florida. This was an especially tight race, but close races with extremely impactful results are more common than you might expect.

In 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin by less than 0.8% of the vote — that’s just 23,000 votes. Again in 2020, Joe Biden edged out Trump by only 20,000 votes in Wisconsin. In Arizona, Biden had a similarly close win, with just 0.3% more votes than Trump.

In both races, Wisconsin and Arizona played influential roles in the outcome of the general election. It’s difficult to predict how close a race will be before it happens, so it’s important to always cast a vote.

Voting is a cornerstone of American democracy and history.

Not voting means not participating in democracy. People throughout American history, and still today across the world, have fought and died for the simple right of casting a vote. We have a duty to carry on the legacy of the historical and worldwide struggle for suffrage.

Lack of representation was a big motivation behind the United State's fight for independence from England. The Founding Fathers were unhappy with the monarchy and how it suppressed the voices of citizens. That’s why they came up with a democratic system of voting when framing our constitution.

There’s a reason why the Founding Fathers emphasized “we the people” when defining how this country would be governed.

Voting is so crucial to a strong democracy because it:

  • Allows us to engage with our individual civic responsibility in hopes of improving the well-being of all Americans.
  • Represents a commitment to our country, fellow citizens, and future generations.
  • And encourages more political engagement and discourse, which is a powerful aspect of any healthy democracy.

 

Your vote doesn’t just represent you, it represents your whole demographic.

For example, let’s say you’re a student. You don’t want a small student voter turnout because that will likely translate to election results that don’t reflect the concerns of young people. It may seem like your vote is insignificant in large elections, but your voice is representative of many important demographics. You play a valuable role in making those demographics seen by politicians.

Turnout by income

Research on past elections showed that, of affluent people earning over $150,000 a year, over 50% showed up to the polls. Meanwhile, only 12% of 18- to 24-year-olds earning less than $30,000 a year voted.

This unequal voter turnout should be no surprise. Registering to vote can be difficult and time consuming, and taking time on a Tuesday to get to the polls is often tough for working people. These barriers are a big reason why politicians continue to protect the wealthy, rather than focusing on policies that will support everyday Americans.

Voting is a right, not a privilege, so it should be accessible to and easy for everyone. We can improve voter turnout from everyone by making voter registration automatic, implementing vote by mail across the country, and providing early voter options for people who can’t make it to the polls on election day. How do we get all this done? By passing the Freedom to Vote Act.

Voting is a great way to make your voice heard, but there are so many more ways to participate in our democracy. Join our movement to fight corruption and have an even greater impact!