On October 31, 2012 I voted for the very first time. I was so excited I chose to do it the long way, though I technically cast a straight ballot; I even saved the neat little sticker with the Presidential seal and the year on it. I knew that the fact that I was able to vote at all was thanks to brave women who just under a century ago fought with everything they had for the right, as well as men and women who fought for minorities to be able to vote. People in other countries would give anything to do what I was doing at that moment. Even some former students and younger friends were itching to get to polls, but they will have to wait until the next election.
Still excited, thankful, and hopeful, I walked out of the voting center feeling quite patriotic. I was with a friend so we went out for a snack and talked, as usual. Our conversation inevitably went back to the polls as we were both first time voters; we wondered how people, especially women and minorities, would chose not to vote. Personally, I was so consumed with this election that my mom would tease me saying how I should become one of the pundits on TV making their predictions and analyzing the campaigns. As I mentioned, I was excited to be doing my civic duty as an American citizen. After all, there were so many issues at stake starting from the economy to social policies. How could opinionated people not make their voices heard? As one of my favorite presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” As my friend and I chatted, we realized one reason why people wouldn’t vote was common.
The biggest reason that people we knew weren’t going to vote was because they believed their vote didn’t matter, or that the candidates were corrupt no matter which party they belong to. For example, my mom did not vote until the 2008 election, and only because I had to sort of guilt her into going. (I told her that not only did her future matter, but mine did too.) My dad on the other hand, still won’t vote because he can’t stand politics and doesn’t think his vote truly counts,. Likewise, my maternal grandma, who became a citizen when she was about my age, never voted either because she believes even the best politician is crooked.
My friend and I reasoned that while it is true that there are many “crooked” politicians out there, it is not true that our votes do not matter. The only way we can keep dishonest or greedy people from becoming leaders is to speak up. Educate ourselves about the candidates and pick the one that has the best intentions for our respective communities. Another friend of mine put it beautifully when he said “A good politician tries to make today better; a great politician tries to make tomorrow better too.” Because of this, I was excited and proud to cast my ballot for the first time that day and will be equally proud to cast it in the next elections. And you should, too!