We’ve all heard it about a million times: “Your vote matters.”
While I know this is true, there have been times where I’ve struggled to remember it, especially in this election cycle. We read about new voter suppression techniques every day — fake ballot drop boxes, people being purged from voter rolls, absentee ballots being thrown out — it makes it seem like voter suppression is so rampant that there’s no point.
However, this is not true. Most votes do count, and my vote and your vote DO matter. There are plenty of reasons to vote and many times when every vote counts and is important.
The number of people who vote and the margin by which politicians are elected affects how they act. Even if your candidate won’t win or even if they’ll win without your vote, you must vote to affect the margins.
Political parties and organizations also watch margins. If an elected official wins by a small or shrinking margin, parties and organizations may invest more resources into the district to try to win the next election.
Think about it: If Democrats never voted in Texas because they assumed the state was going to vote Republican as it characteristically did, it would never be considered a battleground state in this election.
Even if you’re in the majority, your vote matters. If Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, won with less than 88% of the vote in 2018, she might have stronger Republican opposition.
The way to flip a district is to run candidates in every race and election, have real conversations with voters and give it time. No one is going to do that if candidates win by 90% every time. Vote to strengthen your side in this election and the future, regardless of how strong your side is.
Votes can be really, really close
Races can be extremely, uncomfortably, close. In 2017, an election for a Virginia state house seat came down to a single vote. In the 2000 general election, the margin of votes in Florida between the presidential candidates was 537 votes of the 5.8 million ballots cast. In 1994, a Wyoming state house seat was determined by the drawing of a pingpong ball out of a hat after each candidate received exactly the same amount of votes.
I’d kick myself if my candidate lost because they pulled the wrong pingpong ball from a hat after I didn’t vote, and I bet you’d want to, too. So vote!
It can bring reform
Regardless of which candidate wins, the democratic system in this country will need to be changed beyond what’s on this year’s ballot.
But in voting, we’re saying, “Hey! We’re committed to democracy, and we care!” which puts pressure on our elected officials to make the system more democratic. Voting now will lead to reform down the line.
If barely anyone votes, there’s no reason to remove voter suppression tactics and, perhaps, change the electoral systems because those in power will believe that no one cares. We must vote in favor of candidates who share our commitment to democracy to show we care.
This is the first, not the only, step in favor of a more democratic future where everyone’s vote is truly heard and matters, but we can’t start moving without the first step. The way to make your vote matter more in the future is by voting today.
The most important reason
At the end of the day, there’s one certain way to ensure that your vote won’t count, and that’s by not submitting your ballot. So, I’ll see you at the polls Nov. 3, and we’ll strengthen our democracy together.
Contact Kate Finman at [email protected].