Column: Democracy Challenged: Voting in America

White people ages 60 and older are more likely to vote than any other group in America, according to the United States Election Project, which is why the majority of our politicians are old white people. In order for our nation to be more representative, in terms of race and more, it is vital that all who are eligible to vote do so. On Nov. 6, we could change the course of America, but only if we want to.

We must unite as a nation. Republicans and Democrats have become so polarized and filled with disdain for each other, but voting is what can bring us together.

Whatever your party, everyone can agree that higher voter turnout is better for our nation.  Americans, however, are very bad at voting. In the 2014 midterm elections, only 35.9 percent of eligible voters voted, the lowest percentage in 70 years and down from 41.9 percent in 2012. While those numbers would most likely be much higher if more Americans could vote, such as those who were once incarcerated, it is an abysmal number to fathom.

In a recent video, former President Barack Obama encourages voting and dismisses seven common myths about voting and not voting. The key takeaway from his message is that voting is a civic duty.

If our voter turnout rate were higher, those who run for office could be held much more accountable for their actions and would be forced to align themselves more so with the ideologies of their constituents.

“Politicians are counting on you to not vote, those in position of power are betting on that. That you’ll check out,” Obama said in the video. “When you opt out, that’s what allows other people to essentially fill that void. It allows them to do nothing about the things that you’d like to see government do.”

In addition to general low voter turnout, there are huge disparities in demographic voter turnout. In the 2014 election, 46 percent of eligible white voters turned out to vote, compared to 40 percent of black voters and just 27 percent of Asian and Latino voters.

Voter suppression is one cause of low voter turnout amongst minorities. Since 2010, there have been 24 states that placed new restrictions of voting, ranging from showing an ID at the poll to only having one voting station within 50 miles of certain counties.

A recent example of this suppression comes from Georgia, where Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for Governor and current Secretary of State for Georgia, has held up nearly 53,000 voter applications, the majority of them belonging to African-Americans. He denied the accusations in a debate Tuesday, instead blaming President Obama, while offering no evidence whatsoever.

Suppression is key in the low turnout for minorities, and it’s important to fight these obstacles as much as one can by staying informed and supporting members of the community facing these obstacles. We all deserve to exercise our vote every chance we get it.

Leave a Reply

*