In the heat and excitement of the upcoming 2016 presidential election, Americans are engaging in deep conversations about social issues in preparation for picking a candidate. These conversations often turn to debates about the extremes.
The two front-runners of the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have polar platforms. This leaves their supporters at odds with one another on nearly every issue, whether over the issue itself or how to handle it. This is the expected bread and butter of a presidential election. What we may not remember are those who stand in the middle, undecided.
Being undecided is one matter. We have time still to watch the upcoming debates and do research. Deciding on a candidate can be done in good conscience after a couple hours of digging and informing yourself. Arriving late to the game is no fault on anybody’s part.
However, some ultimately decide not to vote. Their reasons vary widely — they don’t know the candidates or issues enough, have no time, or simply aren’t interested in participating in their country’s democratic processes.
Not knowing enough about the election is only rarely excusable. I like to think that the average American should have a free hour or two to browse the internet or talk to their social circles.
There are legitimate concerns in not having time to vote. For those who work long hours and cannot afford to take time off, cutting into valuable work hours can be crippling to their income. Studies are varied on whether voting takes too long or not. Wait times change from year to year and from state to state.
A 2012 study by MIT’s Charles Stewart found that Florida had disproportionately the worst waiting time, at 45 minutes. But the majority of states faced wait times of no more than 20 minutes. Maine was found to have an average of 3.7 minutes.
When addressing wait times, we should consider transportation to and from voting locations as well and factor these into the argument. Because of the extremely individual experience of what is too long to wait and travel, there is little that can be done other than streamlining the process as much as possible.
In addition, we should make it more known to people that they can send in an absentee ballot if they are unable to go to their voting location. These ballots need to be received by Election Day, so a little preparation beforehand is required, but it should take no more than a few minutes to fill out the form and toss it into the mail.
The last reason for not voting has little to no standing. Deciding not to vote in an election — especially a presidential election, which carries with it so much weight for the next four years — only because you do not think it “matters” is absurd.
With a nationwide election, the possibility of the final decision swinging on a single vote is low. What does matter is the influence that someone can have on their friends, family and children. Declaring publicly that your vote does not matter may convince others out of the voting booth. We then begin to lose groups of votes rather than a single.
If you want to discuss the downfalls and problems in our country’s society, you should also be actively participating in the changes in our government. Complaining while subsequently doing nothing toward change is minimally productive.
There should always be an outlet for frustration toward today’s affairs, but we reach a point where that is not enough. And then we have to participate. We have to vote and support our beliefs in hopes of pushing our country toward a better future.