I know, I have heard the arguments. What is the point in voting? After all, in the end [fill in the blank]…big money runs the electoral process, nothing really changes, what good is one vote, my vote just cancels out (x’s) vote, how do I even know my vote will be counted, I just don’t have time, I am sick of negative political ads and campaigns….
Well, I think it matters that we vote and that we protect the right of others to vote. That is not the idealist in me talking. It is the part of me that knows no single thing we do brings about change, and that’s not a reason not to do it. It is the part of me that knows that sometimes what we need to do is show up, whenever we can, in all the ways that we can. Because, if we don’t show up, other interests will fill the void.
Author and columnist William Rivers Pitt, in an essay posted on the web this summer entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet,” made an important observation about the decline of voter participation and citizen engagement in the United States: “Henry David Thoreau argued for non-participation in a broken system, but a system that has been broken by non-participation requires a different remedy.”
Even with record turnout in the 2008 elections, nearly 40 percent of the populace did not vote. Polling data shows that while Congress as a whole is at its lowest approval rating ever, in large part due to growing frustration over partisan gridlock, support for individual candidates who promise never to compromise or work across party lines is still strong. A strange disconnect. Maybe it is we, the people, who need to change.
When I hear the arguments about the futility of voting, I hear the words of Doris Haddock, a grandmother from Arizona who in her 90s walked across the country to take on the power of big money in political campaigns: “If we allow the greedy and inhuman elements to steal away from us our self-government because we didn’t have the energy or courage to fight for it and use it as a tool for love and wisdom, how shall we answer for that?”
Will my vote really make a difference? The one thing I do know is that if I don’t vote I lose a chance to be heard. Maybe not the only chance, but an important chance. And big money will win. So I opt for voting and for working for change in whatever other ways I can. I opt for voting and then showing up the next day and the next day and the day after that to hold those elected accountable for serving the common good and for striving for the highest level of cooperation and not the lowest common denominator. I’m going to vote, knowing my responsibility doesn’t end on November 6th.
The United Church of Christ has more than 5,700 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.