Elections are important. However cliched it may sound, voting is truly a civic duty — one that binds citizens to their society and offers them a reasonably simple way to contribute to the common good. It’s the most obvious way to change a system that feels like it’s unresponsive, and to set the tone for the future — while one vote may not shift the election, many votes add up.
Suffrage is a right fought for and worth exercising.The United States weathered civil war before blacks received the right to vote in 1870. Suffragettes were jailed and force-fed in order for women to gain the vote in 1920. Even today, the fact that politicians in North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere are attempting to restrict voting rights and suppress voter turnout is a sign that however little you feel your individual vote matters, it does.
Still uninspired? Vote anyway.
Vote for your preferred presidential candidate: It’s not necessarily a binary choice. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Evan McMullin, Jill Stein, an unidentified write-in — it still matters. Win or lose, the level of support seen for various campaigns still sends a message to the existing establishment, one that can shape our options in the future. It’s less likely, for instance, that a major political party (ahem) will feel comfortable supporting a volubly sexist, xenophobic and anti-minority candidate in the next election if such a candidate loses badly this year.
Vote down the ballot: While the presidential campaign feels momentous, local and municipal elections are truly the closest to your everyday life. Trump and Clinton may take up the airwaves, but state legislators, city council representatives, and school board members’ actions are likely to affect you most directly. What will graduation requirements look like for your child? Will physician-assisted death become legal in your city? (It may in D.C.) Will WMATA ever receive more funding, or are we really going to wait for it to explode?
Vote on ballot initiatives and individual referenda: Tomorrow could be the day that decides whether the minimum wage goes up or whether taxes go down; whether you’ll be wreathed in marijuana smoke for the rest of your earthly existence; or whether your local farm animals will be guaranteed a slightly more comfortable lifestyle before you eat them. These are opportunities to influence legislation directly rather than through representatives, rare enough not to be missed.
And finally, vote because — for all our gripes about the state of government — if you don’t participate, do you really have a right to complain?
Plus, you’ll get a sticker.