On November 3rd, 2020, I woke up at 4:40 AM to arrive at my local polling site to work for Election Day, something I have been doing since I was 18. My work partner and I were eager for the job we were about to perform. We understood that this year was going to be different from others. We expected to be filled to the brim with lines that stretched over to the street. To our dismay, not as many people showed up as we thought.
This will not be yet another article talking about the results of the election and what they mean for the future of this country. After all, it seems like you cannot get past one news story without hearing about those. Rather, I want to talk about something more pertinent: the voter turnout. The 2020 election had record voter turnout.
But there is something very unique about voting patterns in America. Generally speaking, a lot of Americans simply do not vote. For example, in 2014, only 36.7% of eligible people had voted. More people voted in this election than in over 100 years. This goes to show that the reasons why people are voting so much now are circumstantial.
Voting based on the conditions is normal and even necessary to a large extent. However, if the only time we can expect to see people vote is when the state of affairs become dire, then that issue must be addressed. There has to be a conversation about the importance of voting no matter what the situation may be.
It goes without saying that there have been millions of people over the course of America’s history who have sacrificed their energy, time, and even bodies just to allow people in the present (us) to vote. For a very long time, only White people (specifically, men) had the right to vote. Through organized movements and protests against discriminatory electoral practices (such as literacy tests), more people were able to vote. Here we are in the present day. We of course still have a long way to go, but it goes without saying that we are in a much better position now than those before us had been.
Voting is also simply fundamental to our democracy. It is our civic responsibility to choose people who represent what we think is best for our nation. We are not simply choosing people. We are choosing ideas that our country will be propelled by, views that will shape how issues are seen, and policies that will influence the rest of our lives.
The Bronx River would not be where it is today if it were not for the help of voters. The Bronx River Alliance is made of people who gave the Bronx River a voice, but they did so by communicating the issues to elected officials who were then able to provide funding to revitalize it. Officials who valued the River would ultimately not be there had it not been for voters who picked them in the first place. Hopefully, we as a society are better able to understand the significance of voting and have better turnout rates than the ones we had even seen for this year.