I’m a first-time voter, and I'm voting my conscience in 2020
The first vote I cast was for John McCain. Ms. Abeyta’s first-grade class was doing a mock election and I, being the defiant little contrarian I was, wanted to go against the ideas of my parents as well as the majority of the class. Four years went by, and I matured past my “I want to be different” phase and smoothly transitioned to my impressionable bandwagon phase. I still knew nothing about politics, but I knew my parents liked Barack Obama, and most people told me he was the good guy, so I helped him win the election by a landslide in Ms. Cormier’s fifth-grade class. This November will be the first time I’m voting in a general election since 2012, and since then, I’ve gained a passion for politics. This time around, I think my vote has a bit more weight behind it. I should, therefore, treat this sacred right with the care it deserves, and, after thoroughly researching the candidates, make an informed decision based on what I think is the best for our country and its citizens. However, many of my peers who’ve also recently reached the voting age disagree, and they seem to be split into two camps. The first, and often the more vocal camp, lie on both sides of the political dichotomy, urging you to remain on their side of it and demonizing those who deviate. On the right I’ve seen opinion pieces1, which I would characterize as fear-mongering, urging citizens to vote in order to “stop socialism and anarchy.” On the left, you have speakers2 at the Democratic National Convention ridiculing independent third-party votes by saying “this is not the time … to play games with candidates who have no chance at winning.” I see these sentiments all over my social media feeds, and I have to resist the urge to spitefully defy whatever they say like a first-grader or succumb to their peer pressure like a fifth-grader. I understand they want their candidate to win and the other to lose. But as a first-time voter, nothing has made me more disillusioned with the election process than having two sides pressure me to vote for them while dismissing my concerns with their nominee and exaggerating claims about the other one. Despite my frustration, I intend to uphold my civic duty in November, but it will be of my own accord. I will do my research with an open mind, and I will vote for the candidate and policies which I think are best, and not the ones others tell me to or not to. Another group I’ve encountered is just as disappointed with the election system as me, and they’ve let that disappointment sour them on the idea of voting at all. I understand their cynicism. There are a lot of reasons why one might feel like voting is pointless. Some, like many of my fellow Californians, might feel like regardless of whether or not you vote, it won’t have any effect on your state’s deep shade of red or blue. This is why many members of my family didn’t vote in 2016, and, at the time, I agreed with them. To that, I’d counter that seeing states flip isn’t unheard of. In 2016, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania all flipped for Donald Trump after voting Democratic in every election since at least 1992. In 2008, Barack Obama was the first Democrat to win Florida since 1996, Colorado since 1992, and Indiana and Virginia since 1964. Another source of ire for nonvoters arises when neither party satisfies their vision for the country, and it seems that third-party candidates, like Jo Jorgensen of the Libertarian Party and Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, have no chance of winning. Even if it’s implausible they’ll win, there are advantages to voting for them. Parties with candidates that receive 5 percent of the popular vote are eligible for partial federal general election funds3, so even if they don’t win, you’re helping. Additionally, you’re making a statement that candidates of the two-party system have yet to earn your vote. Finally, consider that, according to a study4 by the Pew Research Center, four of 10 eligible voters didn’t vote in 2016. If that base was energized, those votes could make the difference in an election. It’s because I know that my vote matters that I’ll make sure it’s my vote. Every election for the rest of my life, I’ll vote my conscience up and down the ballot.
1) https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/fight-america-freedom-voters-socialism-anarchy-kay-coles-james 2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9SzyjgQzU4&feature=youtu.be&t=897 3) https://www.fec.gov/introduction-campaign-finance/understanding-ways-support-federal-candidates/presidential-elections/public-funding-presidential-elections/#:~:text=A%20new%20party%20candidate%20receives,party%20candidates%20in%20the%20election. 4)https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/
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