Tennessee is 50th in voting and 40th in voter registration. BriteHeart is determined to help citizens see the relevancy of their vote and get to the polls this November 6th, so that we can turn these dreadful statistics around. To that end, we decided to take a look at the most popular excuses people used, according to Pew Research, to NOT vote in 2016 and see if they hold up in retrospect. (HINT: They Don’t)
1) 25% – Didn’t Like The Candidates Or Campaign Issues
If all that you know about a candidate comes from information gleaned in your local newscasts or in commercials aired during a campaign, it’s easy to understand how any sane person could throw up their hands and say they don’t want anything to do with any of them. But, unlike watching network TV, understanding what is really going on in politics requires a little digging underneath the surface.
For instance, a little research by a busy new parent might reveal that one candidate has a much stronger record in supporting environmental causes than the other one does. For such a person, insuring a healthy and beautiful planet for their child to enjoy throughout their lifetime would certainly be worth the thirty minutes or so it takes to vote for a candidate who wants to act on climate change.
Maybe another citizen is nearing retirement and the viability of social services like Medicare and Social Security is foremost on her mind. Seeing politicians legislating tax breaks for the wealthy while the national debt explodes beyond comprehension might very well move a conscientious voter to want a more fiscally responsible candidate that would protect her hard earned retirement benefits representing her.
The bottom line is that there’s always a reason to vote for someone who better represents issues that matter most to you, if you take just a little time to study the issues. Even if the best reason to vote for a candidate is to keep their opponent out of office, responsible citizens know that this is time well spent.
2) 15% – Not Interested, Felt Vote Wouldn’t Make Difference
It doesn’t take a deep dive into the history books to discover the elixir that disproves this myth. After all of the votes had been tabulated in the presidential nail biter between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, only Florida was still too close to call, yet the winner of that state would be the next President of the United States. For more than a month the counting and recounting of ballots droned on until the
Supreme Court finally ruled in Bush v. Gore that George W. Bush had won Florida by 537 votes, out of almost 6 million cast, and was now the president-elect. Imagine how America’s foreign policy misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan or our national environmental priorities might have been different under a President Gore.
Or take a look at District 53 in the 1991 race for the Virginia House of Delegates. Jim Scott defeated David Sanders by one single vote. Do you think Mr. Sanders might have had a little difficulty with someone telling him afterwards that they blew off the election because they didn’t think that their vote mattered? Scott immediately became known as “Landslide Jim.”
How about the 2002 Republican primary for the 26th district in the Washington House of Representatives? In this election, Ed Mitchell defeated Kevin Entze by a margin of one vote: 5870–5869. To make it more painful for Entze, one of his friends admitted that he left his mail-in ballot on the kitchen table. Think it might be a little tough to send that guy a nice card during the Holidays?
Don’t buy into this canard of the political cynic. Your vote counts every time. The civic power that you wield with your one vote might not be the decisive tally in every election, but it amplifies your voice as a responsible civic warrior.
3) 14% – Too Busy Or Conflicting Schedule
Certainly anybody can have a pressing problem or an emergency present itself at an inopportune time. On first blush, this might be an excuse that’s hard to refute, except for one thing: Early Voting. This is why Early Voting exists in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Busy people can’t always stop the world and tend to non-emergency situations whenever they want. But everybody can take 20 or 30 minutes at lunch, or on the weekend, or going or coming to work to cast a ballot. Oh, you’re going on vacation or your state doesn’t offer Early Voting? Then call your election board, request an Absentee Ballot and then remember to buy a stamp and put it in the mail. That vote will count just as much as one cast on Election Day.
A little planning and knowledge of voting times and locations should render this excuse useless. As world class artivist and civic advocate Todd Rundgren says, “If you want to be my friend, you vote. It’s not a privilege, it’s a responsibility.”
Get the voting information that you need, make a plan and then make it happen. Because when you vote, you fundamentally make a positive imprint on our democracy. When you don’t vote, you throw your voice away and you allow those who might disagree with you on the issues to have double the impact.
Eric Liu, CEO of Citizen University and foremost promoter of “powerful citizenship” reminds us, “There is no such thing as not voting. Not voting is to hand your power to someone … who will use it against you.”
4) 12% – Illness Or Disability
No one should be shamed for taking time off for illness or being unable to get to the polls on Election Day because of a disability. This is why it’s so important to think strategically about how you can best fulfill your civic responsibilities.
None of us can predict when we might succumb to illness, so the safest course of action is to always take advantage of Early Voting opportunities in your precinct, if offered, or simply request an Absentee Ballot, if you fear bad health might keep you away from the polls on Election Day. Knowing that you have cast your vote is a great feeling that you can share with other early voters who are also exercising their civic power. Even though you rarely know how your fellow citizens are voting at the polls, there is still a patriotic camaraderie in the air as Americans of all stripes show their civic character by performing this most fundamental civic obligation.
If you are disabled and need assistance, find a friend or an associate who plans to vote and find a convenient time for both of you to vote together.
The Joy of Voting should be emphasized more in our civics. And going to the polls with other engaged citizens is a great way to celebrate the communality that we all share as Americans, freely participating in our democracy. Making a plan to share a trip to the polls with a friend is a fantastic way to experience the miracle of our democracy together.
5) 8% – Out Of Town, Away From Home
It’s so easy to eliminate this ‘problem’. Just take advantage of Early Voting or request an Absentee Ballot.
In Tennessee, you can download an Absentee Ballot request form on the Secretary of State’s website. The request for an application for a by-mail ballot can be received no earlier than ninety days before the election and no later than seven days before the election. Provide all of the information that the application requires and a ballot will be mailed to you. Presto! Problem solved and you have successfully performed your civic duty when you mail it. Thanks for taking this simple step to fully participate in our democratic process!
6) 4% – Registration Problems
This barrier might require some patience and a little extra effort. It’s no secret that some areas of the country feel that their best chance to keep government stagnant is to keep the vote total low. So there may be extra identification required, the early voting period may be short or not available, the location of open polling places might be inconsistent or paperwork might have been lost, etc. But stick with it, stay patient and don’t let those who might not want your vote counted silence you.
Remember, it wasn’t easy building the world’s greatest democracy and it requires effort to keep it. As filmmaker Michael Moore says, “Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy.”
When you insist that your voting rights are honored, you represent the strongest link in the chain of citizens keeping our democracy healthy and strong. That commitment to the fundamental principles of a free and an engaged citizenry is the bedrock of our American democracy. And your refusal to allow your voice to be muted embodies the very essence of what makes our democracy great.
So gear up for a civic awakening this November 6th. It is time for a civic renewal that shakes up the status quo and ushers in a new era of responsible leadership that truly honors our democracy and cares about all Americans.
Let’s get to it. See you at the polls!