This season’s slacktivist trend comes in the form of political social media posts and comments on the 2016 field, opinions that aren’t likely to end up in a ballot box.
Registering to vote is more complicated than a lot of things we do these days because there’s not an app on which to do so. But in all seriousness, a crisis over faith in government has led many to stay at home from the polls. Yet, voting is the most individual of civic duties.
We live in a representative democracy, and your ballot counts in electing who will represent your voice on the issues that may inspire you to many a Facebook rant or even to lead a protest. Maybe you don't consider yourself "political," but you're affected by the cost of college, taxes, the chances of getting a job in your industry and certainly by public infrastructure.
Perhaps you consider yourself a change agent in your community outside of the political sphere. Many find politics disheartening, and consider many government systems broken and unwilling to serve their own interests.
I can't sympathize with this sentiment. The election is inevitable, and you have a choice to vote. If you don't, someone else will, and you may not like what they have to say. Each vote carries more weight when the voting total is lower, so you're surrenduring to even less power by not voting at all. As democratic processes become weaker, the power up for grabs doesn't lessen accordingly. Other, less egalitarian systems, will triumph more frequently.
Revisit the importance of voting in two historic examples. Florida, my great home state and paradigm of competent governance, had ridiculously controversial influence in the 2000 presidential election. 537 votes for Bush decided the election, after he won Florida and thus the electoral college, and arguably a lot of global policy in the following years. Consider the battle for voting rights, and review a timeline of civil rights martyrs, many of whom died in the fight for equal voting rights.
If you're up for some heavy shit, consider this metaphor. Even if you don't believe in life after death, or you don't agree with a sort of system where you have to die at the end of life, you still probably save aside some money for a funeral and write a will. In inevitable systems, we can try to elect for (no pun intended) the best possible outcome.
For voters unsatisfied with any candidate on the ballot, I urge you to remember you don't have to believe in the candidate's ability to genuinuely consider and then tackle every issue you care about, and you don't have to tie your social and political identity to who you voted for. You're making a choice among pre-determined options.
The choices begin with primary season, which starts with the February 1 Iowa Caucus. From Iowa on, votes will pile up, determining who each state will give their delegates to at the party’s national convention, which elects a candidate.
States have open or closed votes in caucuses or primaries. In a closed primary, you can only vote in your registered primary. So if you’re a registered Democrat in New York, you can’t vote for Trump in the Republican primary. I know – a total bummer.
Illinois has a mixed primary. Voters don’t have to register with the party, but must which party ballot they’ll be voting on at the polls. In some primaries, you can’t vote unless you relinquish your independent status.
Voter turnout during the 2014 midterm elections, which is usually much lower than the percentage during presidential election years, hit a 72-year low. 72 years before, the U.S. was fighting in World War II and many American were overseas. If you’re not registered to vote, I urge you to drop your course packet/pause your Netflix and find out how to register in your state. 24 states and D.C. allow online registration.
If you are a registered voter, make sure to request your absentee ballot ahead of time.
1) Find your county’s supervisor of the board of elections and enter your contact information.
2) Call your mom. Get through a conversation about how consulting recruitment is going, lie and say you sleep seven hours a night, then ask mom to send you your ballot when it comes in. In many cases, your ballot will need to be send to your home address, or the address you’re registered at, and then to you.
3) Post the election mail envelope on your snap story, feel civically engaged and hopefully remind your fan base that they too should be voting. Major key to success.
4) Fill out your ballot after you spend some quality time reading issue positions, voting history and meditating on your personal values.
5) Send back the ballot.
6) Request your ballot for the general election, and keep updated on a range of candidates and policy issues, for your own sake, for our country's sake.
If your candidate isn't elected, or you were physically unable to make it to the polls, remember lots of smaller choices remain in this system. Sharing information about policies, reading fact-checked versions of speeches, emailing or even tweeting at your representatives can make a difference. But your vote is definitive, and it will be counted in the race to choose political office, which I remind you is supposed to be a representation of your interests. Once election season wraps up, be sure to continue participating and making politicians accountable to the right interests.