Why A Third Of Americans Don't Vote | Opinion

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Photo by Greg Melahn

By Thomas Kwan

Even though 2020 was groundbreaking in voter turnout compared to previous years, 33.1% of Americans didn't make it to the poll booth. Politics aside, Republican or Democrat, black or white, fair or unfair elections, 33% of Americans were non-voters. According to globalcitizen.org, here are some reasons why:

A variety of people want to vote and cannot make it. It is the equivalent of watching Food Network and seeing that delicious meal presented with culinarian grace, unable to indulge in it. Numerous non-voters are held hostage by socio-economic barriers, their current residence, those who live in Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico, lack of transportation, the elderly, and those without government Identification.

According to a U.S 2012 census, 47% of all low-income Americans who make $20,000 or less annual salary were non-voters. Several factors are attributed to this low turnout amongst poor people, including but not limited to: lack of transportation, lack of voting, lack of polling locations, and lack of government identification. Early voting windows are also limited. Poor people are working higher-hour, albeit lower-paying jobs, often unable to take off work due to financial or scheduling reasons. Inability to register to vote is ubiquitous among the lower-class as well, as well all know if you aren't registered, you can't vote. Those financially strapped often relocate many times in their lifetime, making the registration process daunting. Other countries, especially those in Europe, have automatic voter registrations and multiple parties to choose from. Senior citizens often have a higher than average voter turnout; due to not having to re-register (senior citizens often don't relocate). Even though Americans have the God-given right to vote, not all of us can.

Election day should be a national holiday. Everyone should have the ability to vote. I highly doubt many can afford to take off work on a Tuesday as many people often work during the week and need hours to make ends meet. Many people lack the privilege of the upper-middle-class and national elite. While people who are wealthy, paid by salary, or work flexible jobs can allocate time to register and vote, those who are poor are left unable to exercise their 15th amendment right.

My favorite reason people don't vote; is the lack of representation for their candidates. The Republican and Democratic parties are the two main parties, with Independents being the underdog. Only 7% of Americans Identify as Independent voters and are less likely to vote. How often have you looked at a voting ticket and said, "This is not what I wanted." leaving yourself to play the game of "who do I want to win more or a game of who do I vote for so the candidate I dislike doesn't win"; this doesn't inspire people, this uninspires them. The two-party system doesn't represent the wide variety of ideals and beliefs many Americans hold dear to their hearts. As George Washington famously said in his Farewell Address of 1796:

"However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterward the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

According to 2016 Census Bureau data, 15% of registered voters admitted they didn't vote because they felt their vote did not matter. People felt this even more so with the 2020 election results. People are less likely to vote when they feel as though they are either disenfranchised or feel like their vote didn't matter. Irreparable damage impacted our American Society. The 15th amendment feels more like an option than a choice. We all have the "option" to vote, but that vote doesn't feel like it always matters. Due to electoral college rules or systematic oppression, why even vote? This line of thinking is why the scales tip the balance in favor of other candidates. When people don't think their vote matters, they don't even take the time even when they should.

Voting matters, even if you don't think it does. Although we live in a country with an electoral college system instead of a flat structured popular vote, your vote is another straw on the metaphorical camel's back "swing state" Pennsylvania. 2020 is a prime example of how close these margins are; you go to bed Donald J Trump is winning and wake up like "what happened" when you see numbers favoring Biden. I'm not being partial, but merely stating a fact. Swing states are the epitome of your vote as an American citizen mattering. Presidential races like this previous one were down to the wire, and that one vote is sometimes all it takes to make a difference.

Final Thought:

Whether you feel disenfranchised as a voter, feel unrepresented, or cynical about our electoral system, voting is an exercise in your 15th amendment right that need to utilize.

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