One of the most often-cited reasons people give for not voting is their sense of futility… they don’t think their vote makes a difference; they believe they have no impact on government, and vice versa; and they believe “special interests” run everything so their votes don’t count. We must get away from this type of thinking. Voting is a civil responsibility – one that is given to us when we turn the age of 18.
What groups of people are least likely to participate in election day decisions? According to recent U.S. Census statistics, only 46.1 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds voted in the 2016 election, compared to 70.9 percent of 65 and older-aged voters. More than half of adult millennials did not see the importance of exercising their hard-fought right and privilege to vote. Other traditionally lowest participation rates come from people of color, blue-collar workers, those who are less educated, renters, the unemployed, those with the lowest income levels, and, at one time, women. Fortunately, women have about reached the same level of voting as men. Politicians know about these statistics and we see today the consequences of not reaching out to these individuals has had on our elections.
There are too many real-life examples where one vote has made the difference between winning and losing, between enacting a law and rejecting it; especially at the local level. We repeatedly see instances where a governor, a mayor, a city council member, school board member, or a special district member — such as water board or fire district — is elected by one vote. History has also shown where one vote made a difference. John Quincy Adams became the next president when he was picked by the House of Representatives. In 1876 Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election when Rutherford B. Hayes got 185 electoral votes to Tilden’s 184. Today, close elections are becoming the norm, so your vote becomes even more important.
Let’s get away from this thought process of “your vote doesn’t make a difference” because IT DOES. Let’s exercise our civic duty, and furthermore, let’s get involved in ensuring that EVERYONE votes. YWCA Northeast Kansas is on a mission to ensure everyone in our community knows how to empower themselves by becoming civically engaged and registered to vote. This mid-term election year, the YWCA Advocacy Committee is launching its “Voter Engagement” initiative starting September 20th. You can make a difference by joining our team and volunteering to be a canvasser. Help us register people to vote and get out the vote in November. Visit ywcaneks.org/get-involved or contact Joan Wagnon, YWCA Advocacy Committee Chair at 785-249-3464. Lastly, attend candidate forums so that you can make an informed decision and elect the candidate that you want to see in office.
Kim Montoya, YWCA Northeast Kansas Advocacy Committee Member