I've heard this phrase numerous times in many incarnations over the years. Voice yourself by voting, your vote is your voice, let your voice be heard - vote, and so on and so forth. The slogan and the concept is catchy to be certain. It is also, however, discouraging.
It implies that the act of voting is the only way to voice your concerns, your wants and your ideas for this nation. Of course most people do know that you can write your representatives, and even the president should you feel the need, but how many of you have tried this tactic, and just how successful were you? The average citizen will receive an automated reply, a form letter thanking them for taking the time to "voice" their concerns with absolutely no guarantee that their opinion was even read, let alone heard or considered.
So it would be reasonable to presume that voting, the act of electing a representative whose policies closely resemble your own views, really is the best way to let yourself be heard on issues that are important to you. After all, you're electing an extension of yourself, only with more experience, yes?
Or is it?
First the question needs to be asked, does your vote actually count? In local elections, this answer is simple. Winner takes all is the basic premise, dependent on state law, of course. So yes, your vote actually counts. Just as soon as you step it up to the federal level however, things get a little bit strange. In primaries and caucuses, we elect individuals for the position of presidential candidate by way of delegates. In a primary, the delegates take the place of the Electoral College, as it were, and cast the appropriate vote for the candidate in their respective parties based not on the popular vote, but by percentages in counties and cities, as a way to create a fair representation of what each state as whole wants, rather than what the majority of voters want.
This was a practice devised to help smaller counties sway elections. See, if the majority of people live in one area or county of a state (or as in the practice of the Electoral college, very large states) vote one way, for one candidate, that has promised to help them, but not the smaller counties or areas you get a tipped scale of representation. The notion was to create a way to elect a leader based on who would be best for the entire nation (or state) rather than just the majority of the populace in concentrated areas. Or, it's a plan that is supposed to keep the minority safe from the tyranny of the majority. Unfortunately, it isn't working correctly anymore.
Add in the super-delegates and things get even more complicated. Regular delegates are pledged voters, who are responsible and bound to vote for the candidate the constituents have selected, within the frame work of the percentage rules. The super-delegates, however have no such commitment to the people and can vote any way they wish.
Suffice it to say, that even if your favorite candidate gets the majority of the votes he or she may not in fact, end up being the candidate who runs for the presidency.
So just how much weight does your vote actually carry? Not much, to be truthful. Your vote will never have the kind of weight that tips an election one way or another. The idea that even one vote can make a difference is a farce, an illusion to make Americans believe that they are being heard, individually, and so have no further need to bother the government with their pesky requests.
After all, they did vote, and the vote is their voice, right?
To make matters worse, it has become much harder to vote in recent years. It isn't that citizens need to pass tests or that voting has stipulations per se, only that the actual process, from registering to voting according the laws has become rather complicated. First, and this has been major complaint of voters, is that not everyone who has registered is allowed to vote come election day because their information wasn't processed by the specified time according to the law. This, mostly by no fault of the voter, is the reason many voters are turned away during elections.
Registering to vote through the DMV, or social services via the state can wait such long periods of time before turning in their paperwork, that the voters aren't put into the system until it's too late. Going into your town hall is the best bet, to ensure your registration is processed. Even then, human error sometimes permits voters to slip through the cracks anyway.
Then there is the issue of party affiliation, and voting rights. Some states require that the voter be affiliated with either the Republican or Democrat party before being allowed to vote in federal primaries. Ergo, a huge percentage of voters who have no desire to be a part of either party are turned away come election day.
How can we possibly claim to voice our opinions through our votes, and elect the best representative for the position if we continually turn voters away in large numbers?
No wonder voter apathy exists.
Back to the moral of the story however, and that is American complacency. If we truly feel that voting is the best or only way to have our voices heard, even though our voices are not being properly heard in the voting booths, or in the offices once the representative has been elected, what does that say about us?
Have we become so apathetic that we refuse to take it any farther than that? Are we so submissive to our government that we actually buy into the hype that Voting is Our Voice, and all that it implies?
Voting is clearly not an accurate representation of our collective voices, not during the elections, and particularly not after. Is it but a whisper. We need to roar if we wish to be heard. We need to actually use our voices, and not simper away after being compartmentalized into neatly lined voting booths, and discharged as quickly as we were ushered into them, fully fooling ourselves that we have now "been heard".
Posted by Anok at 8:46 PM