Ben Baker is a sophomore journalism major and writes "The Baker's Dozen" for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Ben at email@example.com.
If you’ve watched TV for two seconds in the past month, then you’ve seen political campaign ads. Most of them just attack the other candidate, but every once in a while you’ll see the candidate physically ask for your vote.
And it’s not just politicians who are doing this. Hollywood actors are getting in on the fun. "Funny or Die" has run multiple ads asking residents of certain states (New Hampshire, Florida) to get out and vote, with Ben Affleck and Will Ferrell delivering that message to those states respectively.
It seems to me that the message behind these ads is to “get out and vote, because it’s your duty” or “vote because America is counting on you.” Those certainly aren’t wrong reasons to vote, but are they the best reasons? What about voting to make your voice heard or voting because you have power over your country?
I’ve heard in the past that America has a poor track record of voter turnout. Data from the Pew Research Center backs that claim. An August 2016 study found that an estimated 53.6 percent of American voters voted in the 2012 presidential election. Yes, more than half of voters turned out to vote, but not by much. Almost half of eligible voters didn’t vote and decided to not make their voices heard. That’s not good for the type of country that we are.
We often hear political candidates claim they are “the voice of the people.” They claim that they speak for all Americans (or their supporters) when they give their opinions on an issue. The candidates are an outlet for their supporters to express their opinions.
But as a democratic republic, shouldn’t it be the people who have the loudest voice in the discussion? It is — not “should be,” “is” — the people who rule America, and one of the ways we exert our power is by electing our leaders. However, America does not have mandatory voting; voting is an act done by our own free will. We have the option to not vote if we don’t want to. That is a privilege Americans enjoy.
But when people choose not to vote, they choose to not make their voices heard. They choose to not exercise the rule they have over America. And when too many people get that mindset, and choose to not vote, the collective power of the people decreases and the government can claim some of that lost power. And once the government claims power, it’s very hard for the people to get it back.
So in the end, I encourage all eligible voters who read this to go vote if you are able. However, don’t vote because “America needs you” or because “it is your duty.” Vote because you want to make your voice heard. Vote because it is part of the power you hold over this great nation. You don’t need any more reasons other than these.
Democracy must be active in order for it to work. It is our responsibility to stay active and continue voting, otherwise democracy will eventually fail. Will we rise to the occasion?