By Taylor Saugstad
Every year many high school students turn 18 and cast their very first ballot on Election Day, fulfilling the most basic action in a democratic society.
The act of voting is one of the few aspects of our democracy that we all share as a basic right. It is not in the Bill of Rights, but was slowly extended to all citizens through the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments.
Voting is the fundamental process that keeps our system of government working. Through elections, citizens have the ability to decide who will represent them in the government, be it a local official, a state office, or even the president.
A government elected by its citizens affects every aspect of its citizens’ lives, from schools to health care to homeland security; voting is one of the most important rights in our society.
By voting, you are making your single voice heard, a single voice that turns into one large voice. Enough voices in unison can elect someone into office, out of office, reaffirm or even change the Constitution and the course of our government.
When you vote, you are registering your opinion on how you think the government and society should operate.
On Election Day, voters will not only be able to select their representatives in government for the next term, but they also often have the ability to decide on measures or propositions like bond issues that grant the government permission to borrow money for education, construction projects, and other government necessities.
Sometimes, voters cast their ballots on social issues such as allowing same-sex marriage or banning smoking in restaurants and bars.
Researching the issues, candidates, and the ballot is the responsibility of the citizen voter and is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Your interpretation may change the direction of your community, state, nation–even the world.
Given the importance of elections in the United States, why would people choose not to vote?
I can not understand why some citizens would refuse to participate in elections when politicians, officials and laws can influence so many aspect of their lives.
It is easy to justify why you don’t vote. Some say they don’t know enough about the issues and that they think they shouldn’t vote. I’ve even heard others say that they do not know where or how to vote, how to register, or they don’t have the time.
There have been news stories of some states having voter ID laws that make it harder for some people to vote, or that stop them from voting at all. Many citizens argue that their vote really doesn’t count.
What it comes down to is, you have to make a commitment, and just do it! You can’t let the fear of making a mistake stop you. Lack of knowledge, degree of difficulty, or time constraints are not a valid excuses.
This is your life, and nobody said it would be easy. In this day and age we have one of the most convenient methods of voting by using the U.S. Postal Service and the Vote-by-Mail option. San Luis Obispo is expecting two thirds of its voters to use Vote by Mail this election.
In California, it’s easier than ever! In fact, if you are registered to vote, you can vote early at the SLO County Clerk’s office.
Why am I voting in this election? Because it’s important. It’s important to me, but it’s also important to you. This society, this democracy is built on the act of voting. This is one of the few things that every citizen has in common.