Hello YLI Readers
This week, we kick off our first release of our Voter Education blog series as elections are just around the corner. This series will focus on discussing what it means to be an American voter and the power our ballots hold in a simple, easy, and fun way. We wanted to start this series to hopefully help young people, and other communities, who find the voting process intimidating, to gain the know-hows of the voting process and feel more comfortable in practicing their civic duties.
On a personal note, I want to share the inspiration for this blog so that you may have a better understanding of the purpose behind my writing. This blog was inspired by a statement I once saw: “not being political is a privilege”. I understood where the statement was coming from, that there are American citizens who do not need to worry about their day to day lives because the political system works in their favor. There is some truth to the statement, but there was an overgeneralization made that rubbed me the wrong way. Not being political is dependent on priorities, not privilege.
The Obstacles American Citizens Face Today
I believe most of us know, in our minds, that voting is essential for democracy to be fully carried out in our country, but for some reason, it does not translate into our numbers. In our 2016 election, only 65,853,514 people voted for Clinton while 62,984,828 people voted for Trump, and 6,674,811 people voted for a third-party candidate, while about 100,000,000 eligible voters did not participate at all.
Almost a third of our population did not vote, and it could have been for multiple reasons: not knowing who to vote for, not knowing how to vote, not knowing where to vote. There is a lot of “knowing” when it comes to the voting process, and I think that can intimidate some of us from practicing our civil rights. Many might say that the 100,000,000 represents the privileged who decided they wanted to stay out of politics because there is too much to know, but I believe that there is more to the story than just that.
Raised by an immigrant single mother, I saw a different story. I saw a woman who was focused on working and raising a child on her own in a country that still did not feel like home to her. Instead of investing her time into researching policy, she worked to pay the rent. Instead of getting to know her representatives, she focused on getting to spend time with her daughter during her free time. Instead of going downtown to protest for immigrants, she went downtown to fight with her ex-husband in court. My mother’s story is just one story, but her story represents the personal obstacles that so many American citizens face. Of course, not every American citizen who isn’t voting is an immigrant, but there are similar obstacles that voters constantly face.
It takes time to teach yourself what you are voting for, it takes resources to understand the policies, the people, and the process. It takes easy access to be able to practice your right to vote; and unfortunately, too many Americans lack the time, resources, access, or even all three. Restrictions on mail ballots are being fought over, misinformation is being spread like wildfire, resources are often only offered in English that ESL speakers cannot understand. To not be political is not a measure of privilege, but a measure of priorities, and some need to prioritize surviving rather than securing another two years for their representative. So how can we increase the number of voters? I don’t believe in shaming people into becoming more politically active (because there are already so many ashamed of not participating enough), but to encourage and offer the resources they need, which is what this blog’s goal is.
The Importance of Voting
We want to emphasize the importance of voting because the people and policies that are presented to us on our ballots can change our lives. To vote means more than just checking off a ballot. It means researching who you want to put your trust in. It means self-reflecting on what you believe and asking yourself why. It means having to stand up for yourself when others challenge you. It’s a difficult and draining process, but it is well worth it. So during these next few weeks, I hope that these words can encourage you and walk alongside you on your journey to becoming more civically engaged.
As seen throughout our history as a country, our people fought so that we may live and be heard. Our grandmothers fought so that their granddaughters could speak. Our BIPOC community fought so that their descendants could shout. Our LGBTQ+ members fought so that their brothers and sisters and siblings could say “I do.” We are a country who fights for our rights, and although I myself am a pacifist, I say we fight for our right to vote this election, because fighting is not always about violence. If anything, it means advocating for ourselves and our communities; so, let us young people fight for our voices to be heard this 2020 election.
Aileen Blomdal is a senior at Pepperdine studying Intercultural Communications and interning with Young Leaders Institute. She plans on pursuing a career in international relations or in non-profit work.