In the voting booth, your vote is your voice

In the voting booth, your vote is your voice
                        

The general election is coming up in case anyone missed the memo, and a cursory glance at my local board of election stats (Holmes County) tells me that roughly 65% of registered voters cast a vote for president in 2016. Out of 17k plus registered voters in Holmes County, 11,00-plus cast a vote. That’s a lot of people that didn’t participate in one of the greatest responsibilities and rights we have as U.S. citizens.

Elections affect all of us in different ways. When we decide not to cast a vote, perhaps thinking that one vote won’t matter, it adds up to a staggering amount. In our last presidential election, the number of registered voters in Holmes County that didn’t vote was 6290. This number does not include people that aren’t registered to vote.

When I registered to vote at 18 in my high school government class I could not wait until the next election. We filled out the little cards and handed them into our teacher who dropped them off at the board of elections. When the next election came around, I walked into the township building that sat in uptown Berlin and voted on a now retired old-school machine. I vaguely remember the outline of it and wish I could see it now just for the thrill. Even then the act of voting seemed like a somber, memorable moment, a duty. The precinct was hushed, and I spoke to the poll workers in low tones when giving them my name and address, and my location of Berlin North.

We didn’t talk much about politics at home, and who you voted for was held tightly to your chest. At least I never heard my parents give much opinion except to say, “this party likes big government” and “this party stays out of it.” I regret not doing more digging in those days to form my own opinion. Trusted news sources like The Associated Press, PBS, or Reuters are a good place to start. The age of misinformation begs of its citizens to sift through the spam and throw it away like you would a piece of junk mail. Junk mail has colorful content but there’s no substance inside it.

I’ve voted in every single presidential election since I was able, and this year’s 2020 election will bring that number to nine. I have voted on issues and levies and judges and sheriffs. My vote has been tallied and counted and stored in the annals of time. I wish for some of them back, a longing that comes with age and hindsight. Every vote cast by me for the rest of my life will be one that I’m willing to live with the consequences of, because I know now that who I vote for isn’t just for me, but for how it affects others.

There are many that cannot vote for myriad of reasons: religion, immigration status, inability to get off work, no car to drive to the precinct. It was only 100 years ago that women were given the right to vote, and even then, a large amount of voter suppression made voting difficult – something that continues in certain sectors today.

It would behoove the many of us that do and can vote in primary and general elections to focus on the large percentage of voters that don’t vote and see that as a challenge. Offer to help people fill out a voter registration form, drive folks to the polls, sit down and talk about the importance of making your voice heard in each election.

In the end it comes down to you and the ballot in front of you. Your vote is your own and is as important as every person that walks into a booth that day. Regardless of what your family, church, or friends may say, in the stillness of the voting booth it comes down to you and your own choice. Someone I hold in high regard once said, “Voting makes us what we are and if you don’t care to do it you can’t complain. Your vote is your voice.” No matter who you’re voting for, get out there and vote.


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