I have a terrible admission to make- I’ve never voted in a midterm election. In fact, I didn’t even vote in the last presidential election. That’s a really difficult thing to admit since I consider myself “political”. As I sit here and watch the results trickle in, I recognize that I have been the biggest political hypocrite most of my adult life.
I’d get on my little political soapbox and talk about the rights of women, minorities, and the underprivileged. I’d avoid arguments and go on to say that voting doesn’t matter that much because the “change” of politics never seems to extend to me- faces appointed changed, but my life remained relatively the same. I would go on to acknowledge the fact the real change starts on the local level… but I would never, ever go vote in a local election. Why?
Very good question. Seems pretty stupid that someone that espouses such convictions wouldn’t bother to live by them. The answer is complicated- as I assume it is for many people. For most presidential elections only about 60% of the eligible population turns out and that plummets to only 40% in local elections.
Voting is hard — especially if you’re doing it “right”. You’ve got to take the time to research stuff, look into issues and platforms, even attend events. You have to register — sometimes requiring several forms of identification and/or proof of address. You then have to look into where your actual polling place is, when they are open, and forget about finding a way AND a time to get there AND parking. It’s a crap shoot plopped conveniently onto any one’s Tuesday.
Unless you’re white and have a steady job. That’s right — voter turn out for wealthy Americans almost doubles that of eligible voters living in poverty. Consider the fact that close to 80% of eligible voters making more than $150k show up to polls versus the roughly 41% of eligible voters that make $15k. In addition to that, the 2012 election was the first time since the reconstruction that voter turnout for eligible black voters exceeded white voters and only at a margin of about 1%.
Then there’s also the despondency. The argument of why bother — you are only casting a vote for the lesser of two evils. For much of the time I was eligible to vote, I was living in the swinging state of Florida. Truth told, the only reason I voted in the 2012 Presidential Election was because I liked Joe Biden infinitely more than I liked Paul Ryan. Hate to say it, but I think the same could be said for the 2008 election and Sarah Palin. Ah, the good old days when Ryan and Palin were scary. I now realize that I took Obama granted but the point remains the same. I only voted because I thought it would maybe matter in Florida. As much as I despise Trump, I didn’t vote in 2016 because what would it matter — my new state was blue through and through. More to the point — what reason do I have to trust any of them? They are all crooked, they all have their own agendas in mind, and when it comes down to it — again — where or what changes for me?
I’ve been lucky enough to be somewhat privileged. I’ve never been in a school, night club, or — for crying out loud — a yoga studio that was riddled with bullet holes like a piece of swiss cheese. I’ve never been black, hispanic, and aside from being a woman I am lucky enough to have been born with advantaged and white. I’ve never been unemployed for too long and I’ve never been completely homeless or battered.
I no longer live in a swing state. I still feel a bit despondent and the lesser of two evils nonsense. I have been irritated throughout the last couple of months fielding phone calls, door knocking, and general political annoyances. I was very much inconvenienced this morning going to vote before work, finding a parking space, and going to a strange place in the rain.
I will say that the experience was tremendously different for me this morning comparative to what I experienced voting in Florida. I voted in an Elementary school — in Florida I voted in a church. When I presented my ID and clarified the change of address, it wasn’t an issue — in a previous election I had to return home and present a utility bill.
When it comes down to it, it was still a pain in the ass. I no longer live in a swing state and in the big scheme of things I still wonder how much my vote matters — there’s still not a candidate I totally love and I have a lot of doubts about how the political landscape truly affects me.
So, why did I vote? Honestly, I’m pissed off. What’s the point of being pissed off if you’re not willing to do something about it? It’s like yelling into a fan — the volume gets muffled and your voice gets distorted. Seems like a waste of energy, right? I’ve said for a long time that things change starting at the local level and I need to back that up. There’s so much that could change and if my participation in choosing the “lesser of two evils” leaves me or those worse off than me even slightly better off, I’ll take it. It’s still slightly better.