So what’s in a vote? Statisticians will tell you that it is nothing, meaningless. Pollsters will argue that your vote has approximately a zero percent chance of influencing an election. Pragmatists will say that, rationally, the time and energy spent voting can be better directed toward more effective actions.
Yet every four years people show up in droves to cast their ballot for the next leader of the free world. And in most years, by definition, a little less than half of these voters have virtually no say in the final outcome. They only serve as a point of comparison by which to judge the winner. Perhaps this explains the fact that voter apathy in this country is massive.
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, the 62 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballot in 2008 were right. Their vote did count substantially, both back then and to this very day. For all those non-voters out there, here comes the bucket of ice water.
In a time of computerized polling, comprehensive statistical analysis, focus messaging and 24/7 media coverage, the effect of a single voter has never been more amplified. When you cast that ballot, say, for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, it is recorded by a litany of polling organizations and subsequently broken down according to all the demographic factors associated with your vote.
Without ever providing even basic information to the polling station, your vote is indicative of the impact of political advertisements running in your area and of the effect of local political events and fundraising potentiality.
Your vote serves as a point of comparison with the votes cast in areas commensurate with your own across the nation. This determines the amount of time and money that local political parties will spend in your region for future elections. Because getting your vote is the sole objective of any candidate seeking office, how you use it sends a powerful message that goes far beyond the big rounded percentage next to the candidates’ names at the end of the election.
And don’t you dare say that a vote outside the Obama-Romney circle is a wasted effort. We have two very prominent third-party candidates in this election cycle, Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein. To ignore them is to exclude the possibility that you may be better represented by these candidates than those of the two major political parties. If you’re going to take the time to vote, make sure the message you send is an actual reflection of the view you hold.
Despite all the attention paid to politics and the boundless efforts of political activism organizations to get out the vote, it is amazing how, out of every 10 potential voters, only six take the time to cast their ballot. Perhaps this is because we live in a society where free and open discourse has been so normalized that voting is seen almost as an extracurricular way to be heard in the political arena.
No magnitude of debate can supersede the effect that a single vote has on the outcome of an election. If you truly consider yourself politically aware, and you are dead certain that the ideals instilled in your candidate have the potential to make this great nation even greater, it should not be a very difficult decision.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Vote up, or shut up.