This is a guest post written by LWVNJ intern, Emily Garland.
When I was younger and had off from school on Election Day, my aunt would watch my sister and me. Part of that day off meant going to the polls. My sister and I would gather behind the curtain with my aunt and she would tell us which button to press. When it was time to cast her vote, there would be a slight skirmish between my sister and me over who got to press the red button. After all, an 8 year old’s memory of who pressed the red button last year is not very reliable. I am very grateful that the right to vote and the act of voting was instilled in me at a very young age. I learned voting is more than just a right, it is also a duty.
My senior year of high school was a highly formative time for my civic consciousness. I was fortunate enough to take 2 great classes with 2 great teachers. One was Government and Law Related Experiences (GALRE) and the other was A.P. Government. In GALRE, we would have various guest speakers come into our class and talk to us about their jobs and duties. These speakers were an assortment of people that played a role in politics, like councilmen, journalists, lawyers, state senators, and congressmen. Most of our grade was based on the quality of the questions we asked our guest speakers. This really encouraged me to learn about the political arena around me; it made it all the more tangible. I think this is a problem with voter turnout today, the disconnect between voter and those who serve the voter. Many people don’t see how their vote can make a difference, but it can. I vote because I believe it makes a difference.
In GALRE, we were required to work the polls on Election Day, which I still do to this day. Working the polls is another experience that has made the voting process more tangible and more consequential. It has also encouraged me to be informed about each and every election.
More importantly, working the polls has really illustrated to me who votes. These people who vote are the ones being heard and represented. I wish I would see more people like me, young and female, voting. Seeing a young person at the polls is so rare. I vote because I want more people like me to vote and be represented.
In AP Government, my teacher had a way of explaining things to our class in a way we had never thought of before. She told us that those we elect’s jobs are reliant upon those who vote. If you don’t vote, what should someone care about you since you have no say in whether or not they keep their job?
In a perfect democracy, everyone would come together and discuss their wants and needs, and no decision would be made final until everyone was satisfied. In a country that roughly 312 million call home, this isn’t very practical. So instead we have a republic where we choose people to represent our wants, needs, and priorities. I vote because as a young woman who is about to graduate college, I have specific needs and priorities that I want my government to hear and represent. These include women’s rights, environmental protection and affordable higher education. Since our country is so large and diverse, not everyone has these same priorities, but voting is the great equalizer that allows all these voices to come together and be heard. I vote because we live in a republic and I want my wants and needs represented.
I want a truly functioning and healthy republic. I believe the best way to accomplish this is to have complete voter participation. Although I am not everybody, I am still part of it. This is why I vote. To do your part, visit the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s website for more information on voting and how you can register to vote. Tuesday, October 16th is the last day to register to vote so don’t hesitate a moment longer to play your democratic part!