OPINION: Why I Don’t Vote

By Michelle Gardner

I grew up in Nokesville, Virginia, a small town in the northern Virginia county of Fauquier. I turned 18 in the fall of 2007 and was excited to cast my vote for Barack Obama the following year. I was accepted to Virginia Commonwealth University and moved to Richmond in August of 2008. Unfamiliar with the city, I did not want to venture out to vote and instead sent in an absentee ballot. Passionate about my choice for our country and future president, I joined my friends and neighbors as we watched the votes tally up on TV. When Obama’s victory over John McCain was announced, my entire dormitory complex roared with excitement for the future of our country.

A few weeks after the election, I checked my mailbox to find a letter from Virginia Department of Elections saying that my ballot was not counted because I sent it past the deadline. I was devastated, and I felt disconnected from my peers. I did not have any impact in Obama’s election, yet he still won. I sulked for a few days before I began to do research to figure out some key facts that changed my mind about voting and what purpose it serves.

“During the general election, Americans head to the polls to cast their vote for president. But the tally of those votes—the popular vote—does not determine the winner. Instead, presidential elections use the Electoral College. To win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes. In the event no candidate receives the majority, the House of Representatives chooses the President and the Senate chooses the vice president.” (USA.gov).

We are all taught this in grade school government class, but do we ever really think about this process? The popular vote is not what determines the winner of the election. The majority of the country does not decide the winner of our presidential election but 538 electors’ votes do.

Although the electoral college is comprised of senators and representatives elected by the public, these officials have just as much of a choice as all of us to vote for their candidate of choice. These elected officials make decisions for the entire population of each state. I firmly believe that this process is a backward way for the population not to have true control over the government that controls us.

Anytime I tell someone I do not vote, they almost always tell me, “If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.”

How many people live in the United States that do not have the right to vote? Felons, non-U.S. citizens, citizens under the age of 18 are not allowed to vote. Are they expected to not comment, converse, or have emotions about the events happening in their home? A lack of information and understanding of our voting processes can cause anyone to become passionate about their decision to cast a vote and have their opinion heard, even if it is at a local level.

Graphic by Allie McAlpine