The Vote Heard ‘Round the World

Today, I received my online ballot. The state of Montana wished me happy travels and encouraged me in my civic duties. It took a lot of paperwork to vote overseas, but not nearly as much as my application to be a permanent Spanish citizen will take should this election go sour. The students in my classes are just as interested in this year’s election and my landlady asked me if I was going to be watching the debate.

It is both shocking and thought-provoking to speak with people from small, forgotten countries who eagerly ask questions about the upcoming U.S. election. I avidly follow politics, but I couldn’t tell you the form of government in Slovenia. Yet, these students can quote facts and statistics about the two main-party candidates in a country on the other side of the world. Granted, the U.S. represents the largest global gross domestic product (GDP) and has been considered the leader of the free world for many years. It is because of this global impact that U.S. citizens need to take their right to vote seriously. No one else in the world has the power that Americans have. People argue that one vote doesn’t make a difference. There are roughly 225,778,000 eligible U.S. voters and around 7.2 billion individuals around the world who cannot vote but will be impacted nonetheless. This means that each vote cast by a U.S. citizen counts for 31 global citizens whose lives will be altered by something they have no control over.

Voting is so much bigger than you representing your individual beliefs. It is a statement. It says that you care, not only about yourself, your state, your nation, but about the wellbeing of people all over the world, people who are affected by your choice. These people have no vote but they are the ones directly impacted by the foreign affairs policies of the elected president. They are the ones without a voice whose economy will improve or decline based on the economic approach of America’s new leader.

I have always believed that if you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain about politics. If one isn’t willing to do something substantial about the issue, that individual cannot waste breath over topics he or she chose not to address. If you cannot justify voting for either of the two main-party candidates, don’t. For the first time since 1992, the U.S. is close to having a third party on the debate stage. Find a candidate you stand behind and vote. If your candidate doesn’t win, at least you will have done what you believed to be right.

Years from now, there will be millennials looking back on this election and saying, “Yeah, sorry I didn’t vote, grandkids. I know it had a far reaching effect on your lives but, in my defense, that was the year adult coloring books came into style.” That cannot and should not be our legacy.

Typically elections draw in two types of people: the civic-minded and the fanatics. The people who believe a wall is the only solution or who are big fans of private emails. These are the folks who care a lot with little information. I’m not asking that you care a lot. I’m asking that you care enough to prevent sanity from being drowned out by chaos. You speak for the disenfranchised, the refugees, the underprivileged. Use your voice.