Friday, October 29, 2010

Just One Little Vote

Inevitably it comes up in every class I teach, every semester.

Does my vote count?

Students and I usually spend a good half-hour debating the idea, and I listen to their frustrations about politics and the American political system.

In the US right now it is nearly impossible to escape the impending election. I have never appreciated the DVR's ability to fast-forward through commercials as I do now.

Every television show is inundated with political ads, public radio has interviewed every candidate under the sun, commercial radio fills my ears with ads not only for my state, but for those bordering us to the North, South, and West.

It's no wonder we suffer from voter burnout. Americans are considered "election-happy" compared to the rest of the world. We vote more often, for more races, and more positions (every single candidate), than is typical in other countries.

The media portrays a world where most races are done deals, and focuses only on the "close" races. Early and absentee voting aside, election day hasn't even happened, and we're told the results.

It's no wonder we feel like one little vote doesn't matter.

When I talk to my students, I tell them that technically this may be true. In a country of 200 million plus people of voting age, one vote is a drop in a very large bucket.

But I also tell them that it's the IDEA that one vote doesn't count that is toxic.

One single vote may not.

But when 100 million people believe "one vote doesn't count", it makes an incredible difference. In off-year elections since 1974, voter turnout has hovered between 30-40%.

In a system where lobbyists from EVERY side influence our elected officials, it is critical that we use the MOST POWERFUL TOOL WE HAVE.

Our one little vote.

Tea Party, Coffee Party, Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or Rent is Too Damn High Party-- it doesn't matter.

From your neighborhood Political Scientist, VOTE on Tuesday.

Just vote.

And, after you vote-- enter my contest, y'all.


  1. Wow, this was a much needed post. I was thinking about skipping the polls on Tuesday, but I've truly changed my mind. Great stuff! :)

  2. yay- that warms my heart Pam

  3. So so true. I don't watch tv anymore so I've saved myself from all the advertisements, which is kind of a kick in the face because now I actually have to go out and research all these candidates.

    I'll be wearing my sticker come tuesday!!

  4. angie- you're smart to give up TV. I have before, but am way too dependent on it these days...

  5. I used to teach Civics- I taught it during the Presidential election year and often had this debate with my 8th graders at the time. So many students do not understand the importance of voting. I'm glad to have you stomping for the cause in the blogosphere. You RAWK!

  6. I'm totally with you... I know my vote is a drop in the bucket but I always make sure to vote anyway. It's our civil right--and duty-- and I think every person of voting age should vote no matter what.

  7. Thanks Marquita-- no, you Rawk! Anyone who works with 8th graders should get a major award.

    Agreed Erin- I didn't mention that, but the duty part is also important.

  8. Love this post. Love it. Love it. Love it. It's so articulate and so SPOT on.

    Thanks for saying what need to be said. Now if I only I lived in the US.

  9. This is so important, you're so right. Sometimes your vote might not make a difference to the result, but sometimes it will, and you don't always see those times coming!

    In the recent Australian elections, a lobby group challenged the law that gave some people only 24 hours to enrol to vote after the election was called. The challenge was successful, and in some seats, they enrolled more new voters than the margin of the final result. In other words, they enrolled enough people to change the results in several seats, and they probably did!

    Voting's compulsory here in Australia, but it's still such a valuable right. Great post1

  10. thank susan- when we were in the NL we were always having to talk about American politics to everyone. We were able to do absentee ballots, but it's disheartening to hear that the results are "in" but they're still counting the absentees. REALLY makes you feel like you don't count.
    Amie- very cool story-- more than the margin, that's amazing! how do they enforce compulsory voting?

  11. Great message, there's strength in numbers. We all have a voice at the polls, and tomorrow those voices get to be heard.

  12. Joanne-- thanks. So true-- I am looking forward to tomorrow!

  13. Oh, KO, I wish everyone could read your post. You're spot-on! One vote rarely decides an election; lots of one-votes can. We all add up. The sum is called American. Each part of the whole has to contribute for the whole to be strong and viable.

    Thank you for a great post!

  14. thanks Kittie!
    "The sum is called American" I love that!


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