218,959,000 — The number of Americans who are eligible to vote.
146,311,000 — The number of Americans who are registered to vote.
126,144,000 –The number of Americans who voted in 2012.
92,815,000 — The number of Americans who are willing to let other people make decisions for them.
Today is National Voter Registration Day. If you aren’t registered, or you’re not registered at your current address (common problem), visit this website to exercise your right to vote. People have fought and died for your suffrage, the least you can do is take five minutes to make sure that you’re registered.
For those of you thinking, “But all the candidates are terrible, and I don’t think I’ll vote,” let’s talk for a minute.
We end up with terrible candidates because not everyone votes. If you sat at home during the primaries, you conceded the high ground to reliable voting blocs made up of the most extreme elements of your party and one issue voters who’d cast a ballot for a ham sandwich if it shared their views on abortion/guns/taxes. Those who skipped out on the primary elections are just as responsible for the candidates we ended up with, if not more so, than those who turned out to vote. Do not compound this problem by letting voters who don’t share your values and beliefs pick your president, senator, representative, or governor for you. Even if you just turn out to vote against the greater of two evils, let that be enough.
For those of you thinking, “But I’m not very educated on the issues, so I probably shouldn’t vote,” that’s hogwash.
Do you live in America? Do you pay taxes? Do you care about the environment, the schools, government accountability, or the military? Do you buy health insurance, gasoline, and groceries? Then, you have opinions about how you the government should be managed. And given the wealth of voter information on the Internet, it might take you 10-minutes to learn enough about a candidate’s positions to make an informed decision.
Don’t have ten minutes? Follow the candidates on Facebook. Whoever you unfollow first is the loser.
For those of you thinking, “I won’t be able to get time off to vote,” I empathize. But most states offer early voting or absentee ballots. So if you don’t think you’ll have time to stand in line at the polls, there is probably a work around.
And lastly, don’t neglect local, county, and state races. With all the bluster of the presidential and the pressure on the Senate races, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Believe it or not, most of the governing in this country is done at the local and state level. The federal government may write the checks, but leaders in your community decide how to spend that money.
If you care about education, the school board election matters more than the presidency. If you’re concerned about incarceration rates and criminal justice, most states elect local and state judges. And the list could go on and on. So if you’re turned off by the presidential election (and really, who isn’t?), turn your eyes to the down ballot. Because in 20 years, the guy running for city council could be running for the White House.
Now, stop what you’re doing, and go register. And if you’re already registered, get your friends and family on board.