Election Day and Why It Matters to Me - by Jes Distad
The Future Is Voting. Midterms Matter. Vote Local. There are many maxims to help inspire people to register to vote, but in my experience as a voting rights activist, there is no sure-fire way to get people to care about voting. I have heard just about every excuse there is as to why someone either doesn’t want to register to vote or doesn’t vote.
Let’s face it, voting is hard work. To be an informed voter, you’ve got to research the candidates and ballot measures. You have to double check your voter status regularly. You have to make sure you have the right form of ID to go vote. It doesn’t help that some bills are written with purposefully confusing language.
All that said, I love what I do and why I do it. For every five people that can’t give me the time of day, it is all worth it for that one person that sits down and has a conversation with me about what they love while I provide resources to help make sure what they love is protected or promoted in their government.
The most common excuse I hear is “my vote doesn’t matter,” and nothing could be farther from the truth. You are one person, but if a million people like you exercised their voice in the polls, that can make a lasting impact in your community, in your city, in your state, or your country. In 2016, 70% of people who voted were 65 years or older* and only about half all of Americans over the age of 18 actually voted**. In my city of Atlanta, about only 35% of the eligible voting population decided who the next mayor was going to be in 2017.
Young people, you have your grandparents making decisions for you. Voting isn’t just presidential elections. It’s how your schools are run. It’s who pays to repair the neighborhood rec center. It’s who makes decisions on street signs, legalizing weed, healthcare, immigration, and social security. It’s free speech. It’s gun control. It’s rights for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s women’s reproductive rights. It’s protections for minorities.
Less than 100 years ago on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Many of your grandparents were alive for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting. Freedom fighters fought and bled for the right to vote. We didn’t get where we are today because large swaths of people said “I don’t care.” We are here because small groups throughout history cared enough to take action, be it good or bad.
Voting can change the world. I vote to help ensure the best possible life for my friends and my family. I vote because I am just one part of greater whole, and I recognize that my actions and my voice can have long term consequences. This November, I urge you to vote for what you care about. Head to www.votesmart.org to research your candidates and ballot measures.
Registration deadlines vary state by state, but you can head to www.headcount.org to find your polling place, check your voter status, update your registration, sign up for local election alerts, or register to vote. Be the change you want to see in the world.
** statistics reported by the US Census Bureau
** statistics reported by Pew Research
Jes Distad started volunteering with HeadCount, a national nonpartisan voter rights organization, in 2016. Her experience during the election cycle led her to become an Atlanta Team Leader. She is also a TV producer at Crazy Legs Productions in Atlanta. She enjoys writing, painting, singing, hiking, and most of all, registering people to vote.