As the election cycle culminates in the official election day five days from now, information and disinformation on the voting process floods our social media streams, email inboxes, text messages, voice mail boxes and snail mail boxes. People are and organizations are promoting their candidates and encourage (or in some case discouraging) Americans to exercise their right to vote. Our democracy only works if everyone participates. Yet with growing distrust in the process because of false allegations about voter fraud (evidence shows voter fraud is extremely rare), social injustice and unrest heightened (rightly so) and a pandemic that won’t go away anytime soon, anxiety surrounds this years election. Some might even think to themselves, what’s the point of even voting?
Over the past few months, my mission has been to encourage and empower registered to voters to vote. I volunteered with non-partisan agencies – Vote Forward and Common Cause. I had wrote letters to voters via Vote Forward to encourage voters to vote early or head to the polls on election day. I also spent several evenings texting voters and monitoring social media for disinformation with Common Cause to make sure people have a plan to vote and the correct information on how to vote. Why? I firmly believe that every vote counts and every vote should be counted. I vote to make my voice heard. In the last presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center, “Four-in-ten Americans who were eligible to vote did not do so in 2016. ”
Only 60% of the electorate cast their votes to elect the president. Additionally, because of the role of the Electoral College, winning the popular vote did not determine the winner of the presidential race (interestingly, the last Republican president to win the popular vote was George H.W. Bush in 1988 and there has never been a Democratic president that lost the popular vote). If the 40% of voters who didn’t vote in 2016 had, would the outcome have been the same? Maybe, maybe not. It’s easy to see why the turn out is dismally low – we don’t make it easy for a lot of voters to cast their ballots. I wanted to be part of the movement to change that and to encourage others that even if it was hard to vote, the effort is worth it in the end.
As I volunteered to text bank, one voter texted back that they didn’t see the point in voting. They felt that it didn’t really matter who the president was as it didn’t really affect them one way or the other. Others, asked me for nudes, swore at me or texted back Trump 2020 or MAGA. I opted out those asking for nudes or cussing me out. However, for the Trump supports, I responded back that I was glad they were voting and wished them a good evening. And, I am glad they are voting as that is what America was founded on – a democracy. While I may not agree with the policies of their candidates, I do support their right to vote for who they want to. I was disheartened by some of the responses I received that somehow encouraging others to vote was a partisan effort to steal the election from Republicans. Both parties should be encouraging Americans to vote in a safe and fair manner. I responded to the reluctant voter that even though who the president is may not affect my every day life and many policies don’t affect me at all, they do affect my friends and neighbors. Not voting is a decision too. I vote not only for myself but for my children and future grandchildren and for those that don’t have a voice.
This election is the first year my 18-year-old daughter is eligible to vote. She excitedly told me she’d registered to vote in her HS government class. I imagined the two of us going to the polls together as she cast her first ballot. However, she recently told me she didn’t plan to vote, because she didn’t like either presidential candidate. I felt crushed as I haven’t been able to inspire my own child to exercise her right to vote. And so, I voted early without her. I have tried to engage in a conversation about it with her, but she shuts me down each time. We live in a very conservative area of Ohio and thus her friends are conservative. She aligns with her friends and I can understand wanting to fit in and being like them. She knows I lean towards the liberal side of politics and I’m sure doesn’t want to disappoint me (although I could be all together wrong on that). I am OK with the fact that she doesn’t have the same view as I do (however, the thought that I failed as a mother has crossed my mind a time or two). Leaning politically one way or the other does not mean you have to vote a straight ticket. There are many other candidates and issues on the ballot besides president to consider. I know the process is overwhelming and knowing who the right person to vote for is hard, especially with so much noise coming from all directions. Being about to tell what is true or false is difficult.
For those of you on the fence about voting or undecided on who to vote for, I encourage you to do a bit of non-parisan research on the candidates, make a plan to vote and cast your vote! Here are a few links for my fellow Ohioans to help:
- Where do you really fall on the political continuum? You might be surprised. Take this quick survey to find out: https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/quiz/political-typology/
- Want to know where the candidates fall on various issues? Go to Ballot Ready to find out: https://www.ballotready.org/oh
- What are the voting rules and polling hours? Go here https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/ or here https://radio.wosu.org/post/ohio-voting-guide-what-know-about-2020-election#stream/0
- Do you see disinformation about the elections in your social media feeds? Report it here: https://reportdisinfo.org/