It’s 7pm on November 8 when you walk out of your last class of the day. You’re exhausted, thirsty and hungry and all you can think about—besides grabbing some dinner—is the lab report you have to write tonight for chemistry lab tomorrow. You get to your dorm room, reach for your keys but as you enter your room you feel like you’ve forgotten something. After a moment you remember: it’s Election Day and you haven’t yet cast your vote.
If you’ve registered to vote, the good news is the polls are open for a few more hours. But with so much to do—eat, write that lab report and get enough sleep so you can make your 7am morning class tomorrow—do you really have to vote?
The short answer is yes. While you might think your vote won’t affect the outcome of the election in any significant way, in reality, every vote is important. What’s more, the voting process is quick, and there are many easy (and often inexpensive) ways to get to the poll closest to you. Often, polls are open on or nearby college campuses, certainly walk-able, bike-able, drive-able or bus-able for most students.
The effects of voting are rather clear: You cast a ballot, you gain votes for the candidates of your choice. But if this is your first time voting you may be curious about the implications of not voting. Here are three things that can happen when you don’t vote:
You could make it more difficult for your candidates to win…
Not casting a ballot makes it harder for the candidates you support to win. Voters can register with a variety of different parties, from the Democratic and Republican Parties to the Green Party and more. As a result, there are often many options when it comes to selecting candidates.
Fewer overall voters means all votes must align in order for any given candidate to win. When you don’t vote, you’re essentially relying on the other people who support your candidate to go to the polls and vote in the same way you would. This isn’t exactly the best way to ensure a win for the candidates of your choice—while you have relatively easy access to the polls, other people may encounter obstacles like a lack of transportation or mobility.
So the candidate you don’t want to win could win.
As previously mentioned, voters have a variety of options when it comes to selecting candidates. Votes for third-party candidates can pull votes in odd directions, typically putting the ball in the court of one of the major party candidates. If that ball falls in favor of the candidate you don’t want to win, well, it could have been because you didn’t cast a vote.
But most importantly, you give up a constitutional right.
Voting—like freedom of speech—is a constitutional right in America that allows you to make your voice heard. In many countries, voting is not a right and citizens have little or no choice in who is elected to lead their country. So, why not engage in this distinctly American activity if you are allowed and encouraged to? Your vote might just change the world for the better.