One puzzling phenomenon I have encountered over my many years as a cybersecurity executive is tech people who react poorly to being reminded to vote—not whom to vote for, mind you; just simply to vote.
“Why vote?” they ask, usually adding something like, “My vote won’t matter anyway.”
In my view, those people are wrong. Here are seven reasons to vote.
1. Democracy breaks if nobody votes
When there is no voting, there is no democracy. Want to live in a dictatorship? Me neither. Want to live in a monarchy? LOL, sure sounds quaint.
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All modern democracies have their issues, and no system is perfect. The United States’ system in particular seems set up to reward the very rich at the moment, but that is neither here nor there.
Democracies involve voting on things. That’s how it works. So if you think democracy is a good form of government (or at least better than some of the alternatives), voting is essential.
As Winston Churchill put it, “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” I’m with Winston.
2. Voting is part of independence and thinking for yourself
Do you let other people make all of your decisions for you, or do you value independent thought? If personal independence is important to you, then voting should be too. You see, it turns out that the Declaration of Independence was as much about personal liberties as anything else. Preserve that right.
Make your own decisions based on as much data as you can gather, and act on them through voting.
I am among those who believe that you forfeit your right to bitch and complain about government if you fail to vote. And I find that complaining about government is a healthy and often a productive activity. I vote so that I can register my own independent thinking. And then I follow up that voting by interacting with my elected officials. You should too.
When it comes to getting involved in the political process, Abraham Lincoln put it best: “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
Ultimately, you should research your candidates and the issues, and make an informed vote that works for you. After all, if you don’t vote in your own interests, who will?
3. Voting is the great equalizer
In the United States, voting is for all citizens over 18. Since every citizen gets an equal say (assuming that they vote), voting equalizes smart and stupid, poor and rich, liberal and conservative, diamond-soled and barefoot, bib overalls-wearing and yoga pants-clad. As such, voting is an embodiment of yin and yang, and you know how I feel about that symbol.
Plus, smart people vote. You’re smart, right?
4. Voting is how you take part in something bigger than yourself
Your community matters, and it’s bigger than you are. When you vote, you reach beyond your own selfish interests toward something we should all have in common.
If you don’t vote, you let yourself down (by not expressing your will personally). You also let down your family. Don’t let down your family. Don’t let down your company. Don’t let down your town. Don’t let down your city. Don’t let down your state. Don’t let down your country. And above all, don’t let down your planet.
Defining yourself outside your own personal view in a group is as human an act as having a kid. Part of that defining activity should be reflected in your voting habits.
The thing is, like it or not, the government affects every aspect of our lives, from schools to roads to health care to homeland security. By voting, you make your voice heard and register your opinion on how the government should operate. Don’t like the current officials? Vote them out. Like how things are going? Vote to preserve the status quo.
Voting may be the ultimate way to express love for your country. But even if you don’t love your country, you can still vote to change it.
5. Elected officials pay attention to people who vote
Do you feel like your opinions about matters both local and national are overlooked? The way to fix that is to vote. You will be invisible if you don’t vote. The reason is simple: Politicians need voters to vote for them. So they actually pay attention to what voters want.
On the other hand, if you are a nonvoter, then your opinion will matter much less to politicians. See, your vote is currency.
I find it very interesting that today’s social media-driven attention economy was somewhat beaten to the pig trough by politics 242 years ago. Your vote and your attention have similar value. Use your currencies.
Don’t forget that elections actually have consequences. If only people who don’t think like you vote, and you don’t vote, then your opinions will be drowned out by ballot box results. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Vote.
6. Refusing to vote is not rebellion; it is surrender
Bad people with terrible ideas essentially get elected by good people who don’t vote. Really. If you don’t vote, you surrender.
The struggle for the right to vote in this country is a long and storied one—and one we should not ignore. Many people have died for the right to vote, and many votes and voting groups have been suppressed through violence.
In a pluralistic democracy, the right to vote is widely distributed. But it does not mean that you have to vote the same way any other group does. Vote for what you believe in. Democracy believes in a healthy battle of ideas. The theory is that the best ideas will win. That only works in practice if you vote.
Treat voting like a duty to express your opinion.
7. Voting really does matter
I said it before, and I will say it again: Elections have consequences. Your vote really does matter.
If you believe in democracy and civil society, voting is what you can do to preserve that.
Vote because it is the right thing to do.
As should be abundantly clear by now, my fervent hope that you should vote carries not only into my job, but also into my free time. As part of the rock ’n’ roll band The Bitter Liberals, my bandmates and I feel strongly enough about this that we published a public-service announcement (in video form) based on a song from our new record. Have a watch, and pass it on.