Here we are. 2014. An election year. What’s up for grabs? All of the House. One-third of the Senate. Governorships. State legislatures. Local ballot measures. The primaries begin this spring. The general election – Election Day – is 11/4/14. Just ten months away. Debates, advertising, social media chatter – the works. If you like politics, it’s a banquet. If you hate politics, you’re in hell.
Whatever your feelings about how this country does its politics, do not let that distract or dissuade you from participating in this democracy. Whether you color yourself blue, red, purple or tie-dyed, you must vote. Why? Because in this nation of 320 million, there are 537 people in Washington who make decisions that affect every aspect of our lives. That’s 435 Representatives in the House + 100 Senators + the President and the Vice President. There are others who wield great power (the Supreme Court justices, the Cabinet, etc) – but we only elect 537 people to run the federal government. A few thousand folks if you count all the governors and state legislators.
We have the opportunity – still rather rare in this world – to choose people who will represent us and our best interests. We open every sports event and every civic gathering with a solemn vow, hands over hearts, remembering those who have fought and died to secure our freedoms.
But every two years, we spit on their graves. Roughly HALF of Americans do not bother to vote. In presidential elections, that may edge toward 60%. In the “mid-term” (non-presidential) elections, it drops to 40%. And in some places less.
With voter participation that low, a close election can mean that only 20% of us choose the winner. 20% is a majority? When did we get so bad at math?!
Here’s a graphic that shows the reality behind two recent elections in Texas. A deep RED state, right? Maybe. Maybe not. But what we do know is that Texas is a deeply LAZY state when it comes to voting. The large gray squares = eligible voters in the 2010 and 2012 elections. The little red squares = the margin of victory for the candidates who won those elections. In 2010, Perry won by less than 1 million votes in an election where NINE MILLION REGISTERED VOTERS DID NOT BOTHER TO VOTE! They were already registered to vote. In 2012, Romney won Texas by 1.2 million votes. That year, SIX MILLION registered voters didn’t vote. You hate voting so much? Fine. But why would anyone bother to be registered if they won’t vote?
I don’t mean to only mess with Texas. (Or the mess that is Texas.) No state has bragging rights over voter participation. But in 2014, we have to save our governments from being run by people who do not believe in government! Texas will be one of the more interesting states to watch, with Wendy Davis running for governor and John Cornyn getting primaried by a certifiably insane RWNJ teabagger for his Senate seat. Georgia is going to be a wild ride too, with brawls for governor and an open Senate seat.
But it goes so far beyond the ‘sport’ of politics. Because Perry was re-elected in 2010, Texas has refused the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, cutting off millions of the working poor from critical access to health care. It would not have cost the state of Texas a dime to implement this. Perry threw his own citizens under the bus out of pure political spite. And had Romney won the election, who doubts that we would now be at war in Syria and Iran?
Elections have consequences. Not voting does not exempt you from the consequences. It merely makes you a cog on someone else’s wheel. Get yourself registered. And when the time comes, vote.
You can start by registering here at Rock The Vote: