Vocation of the voter: save democracy

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Photo by Kathleen Miller.

In an election where the characters of presidential candidates have sunk to new lows, an important question arises: Do our votes matter?

The FBI recently reignited the controversy about Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified emails that may have compromised state secrets.

Clinton falsely claimed, over the flag-draped coffins of murdered Americans, that Benghazi was the result of a fluke Youtube video attack, though she clearly knew it was an act of terror.

Donald Trump is also no stranger to scandals. Questions about his taxes abound, and numerous women have come forward to claim sexual assault and a video was released showing Trump bragging about groping women’s genitalia against their will. A separate civil lawsuit charging rape will go to hearing in December.

Trump has also had numerous marital infidelities and broken marriages. If he would not keep his vows to his wives, why would we think he would keep his vows to voters?

In an election where the characters of both candidates are problematic, many chose not to vote.

The point of this article is not to endorse a particular candidate, but rather to advocate for the vocation of the voter.

Last week, an article was published in The University News citing Hobbesian philosophy and general distaste for government corruption as reasons for abstaining from participating in the presidential election.

But corruption, and the prevention thereof, is precisely the reason one ought to vote.

There are, however, considerations besides the two presidential candidates.

Voters can focus on the party platforms and ignore the candidates’ personal failings, or vote for down-ballot candidates and leave the presidential selection blank.

Voters can also vote third-party. If Green Party’s Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson were not your cup of tea, you could write in conservative independent candidate Evan McMullin from Utah. A third-party vote might not win, but it can send a powerful message to both parties.

President Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election because, in prior elections, a movement started for a new Republican party to replace the Whigs. A third party might not win this year, but it can pave the way for future changes.

If the government is as corrupt as non-voters say — a point I will not attempt to contest, as I wholeheartedly agree — how, exactly, does refusing to vote help change the existing state of affairs?

If you don’t like our politicians, vote them out of office. If you think our current leaders aren’t getting much done, use your vote to bring in people who will.

But corruption, as grave an issue as it may be, isn’t the only reason people don’t show up to the polls.

One of the most common rationales for not voting is the fear that individual votes won’t amount to much.

“My vote doesn’t matter, especially in Texas,” a friend recently told me. “This state is so deeply red, it’s impossible to make a difference here.”

To the people who hold this contention, I’d like to issue a reminder: A state only swings in a certain direction because the majority of the people who voted supported that party. The so-called inevitability of a state leaning irrevocably in one direction can most definitely be countered by the combined votes of every individual who stayed home on election day due to this fatal misconception.

In a study conducted by bipartisanpolicy.org on the voter turnout in 2012, less than 50 percent of the voting population in historically conservative states — Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arizona, Alaska and Arkansas — voted in the last election.

Why does this matter? Because the 50-plus percent of people who chose not to participate in the last presidential election could have easily overturned the conservative vote and awarded all of those electoral votes to the opposing party. In Texas alone, that’s 38 electoral votes — a significant percentage of the votes needed to win the presidency — and it all starts with a single voter.

If you believe your vote doesn’t matter, think for a moment about what you’re really saying: The underlying message here is that you don’t matter.

For a school that’s so overwhelmingly pro-life, it seems to me that in order to be congruent with this worldview, the University of Dallas ought to be pro-voting as well. Just as every human being is worth protecting, just as every life matters, so does the voice of each of those individual lives.

You can make a difference. Your vote does matter. This is your tool of political power, a tool that women and African Americans have only had for under a hundred years. It’s a privilege, and in this great country, now a constitutional right. Many other places don’t offer this advantage. Use it.

No matter who you’ve supported during this election season, no matter what qualms you may have with the government as it stands right now, whatever your choice — it matters. We are Americans, each and every one of us. We have the final say.

The worst response we can issue to the unethical decisions being made in this country is a silent surrendering of the one power we have to put a stop to them.

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