There are three little words that always upset me:
“I don’t vote.”
In the 2008 election, there were 98,611,000 people who could have voted and didn’t.
This was also the largest turnout since 1968.
The number one reason given to the U.S. Census Bureau for not voting?
“I was too busy.”
That was the answer from registered voters, and doesn’t even take into account Americans who are eligible but have not registered to vote.
A few numbers to consider if you think you might be too busy this election day:
In the 2008 election*,
Only 56.8% of the voting age population came out and voted.
That means that there were 98,611,000 people who could have voted and didn’t do it.
This was the largest voter turn out (percentage-wise) since 1968.
51.9 % of those making less than $20,000 a year voted.
91.8% of those making more than $100,000 a year voted.
In 2010, the percentage of voters dropped to 37.8 %
That number is typical for an “off-year” election.
If we the 99% who don’t control of the majority of the money or political power in this country throw away our voting privileges, we are also throwing away our right to complain.
The classic Walt Kelly “Pogo” cartoon felt relevant here. Kelly originally used the comic as an Earth Day message: we are responsible for this mess. It’s true here too.
It’s easy to blame the 1%. It’s harder to look at where we are the enemy. When we shop at big box stores even though we don’t like their politics, we contribute to the mess. When we don’t want to “get political” because it feels unfamiliar or uncomfortable, we contribute to the mess. When we throw away our voting privileges, we contribute to the mess.
Protesting can be a wonderful tool to bring about change. I am excited to see the international response to the Occupy Wall Street movement. I am concerned that there will be those who use the spectacle of it all to push their own, unrelated agendas. I am afraid that there are still many––even among this movement––who will find themselves “too busy” come Election Day.
Election Day is three weeks from tomorrow. If you don’t know what’s going on with your local and state elections, you have three weeks to find out. #Occupy Google. Get the facts. What referendums are on the ballot? What do the candidates believe? How have they voted in the past? Look past party lines and look at the people––do they stand for what you believe? Start thinking about next year’s election and while you’re on a roll, start voting with your wallet.
Your mission should you choose to accept it? Occupy the voting booth. If you had time to read this, you are not too busy. Whoever you vote for, whatever issues matter the most to you, a ballot carries your voice even further than a human megaphone. Do it for Deamonte. Do it for your own kids, or the ones you hope to have someday. Do it for all the people all over the world who struggle just to get by, and don’t have a vote to throw away.
All 100% of “we the people” have contributed to this mess. Don’t throw away your chance to dig in and clean it up.
Related bonus (from one of my favorite movies):
(*Voting statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and The Washington Post.)