The Power of the 43%

By Anna Eaton

I didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election. I was one of 43% of eligible non-voters. Believe it as you will but, it's not that I couldn’t be bothered. I care very much who does, and more importantly who does not sit in office. 

So, how do you get someone like me to vote. It’s a good question, and it’s one that's going to be more important now more than ever with the potential of having remote elections. 

 

The trick is, it's not getting me to vote, and it's not that I need to feel empowered.

 

It's convincing me that my vote matters. 

 

How do you convince someone that their vote matters? Well, it just so happens that recently I had an experience that helped me see the value in my vote, and now I will do everything in my power to vote in the 2020 presidential election. I watched my Brother run for Student Association president at Syracuse University and it helped me understand what our federal election may look like in the time of Covid19. 

The result: I believe that more people now than ever won’t see the value in their vote, and that’s a serious problem. People voting is already an issue but now with COVID19 we are forced to face a larger and more obscure obstacle, a global pandemic. So, how do you convince someone like me that my vote matters AND more importantly how do all these things connect?

 

Let’s start from the beginning

 

Thanks to a global pandemic I found myself living with my twin brother. A person whose enjoyment for politics far outweighs my own. He and I went to stay in our family's tiny summer cottage away from my father who doesn’t have a spleen. The doors are made of a thin collapsible, bambooish wood that does little to proof against his booming voice. His seven to eight meetings a day, his campaign group chats, his PR discussions, they were invigorating from him. I was traumatized. Social distancing had forced me together with a person whose life was the equivalent of my living nightmare, and because we were so close I felt like we weren’t just living in the same home, I felt like we were mentally attached. I was a member of his senate. I was trapped; juxtaposed by sitting in the safe haven of my living room. It was then that I realized the pure deteriorating climate that an election can have on an individual. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I witnessed the heart and love he gave his supporters, the honest campaign he ran; his motto “driven by you” was true to his very core. It was more than just a campaign to him, it was his way of making his school, his home, safer. Unfortunately he lost in the election. To someone, I would not have been very proud to have representing me. That’s when it all came into focus for me, I don’t have someone I am proud of representing me in our federal office right now. 

It is no wonder why I disliked politics, I was being represented by politicians that don’t align with my same system of morals. I figured my vote made no difference in altering this system, however, what I came to realized was that if I could have a say in who was at the forefront of politics the system might just changes itself. Our political system has the capacity to be changed, simply by one dynamic vote. Your vote.

So, how do we share these dynamic experiences with potential voters; and how do we share these personal moments like watching my brother run for SA president at Syracuse University? 

  1. Share your stories, let’s talk about the first time we learned that our vote had value, tweet about it, Instagram it #whymyvotematters, because a story can inspire someone else to see the power of a vote.

  2. Second, we need to instill the concept of voting at a younger age. Our youth are so important in changing the outcome of an election, however, just like us, they need to understand why their votes matter.

  3. Third thing comes from a lesson I learned from my brother. I watched him get dressed for his online debate in his real suit, head to toe well ironed, navy blue pleated tuxedo. He looked sharp. But why did he go to so much effort if the camera only showed half of him anyways? Why did he douse himself in cologne if only I could smell him. Well his reasoning was a small but powerful one “I want to take myself seriously”, that to me, made perfectly good sense. Being socially distanced has made things feel less real, and we cannot let that affect the polls. Voting is more real, now than ever been. We need to take ourselves seriously enough to vote.

As of 2020 the student population of Syracuse was 15,226 undergraduates. The student association elections in 2019 pulled together a resounding 3,197 students to the polls, that's 21% of the undergraduate class. In my brother's 2020 election 16.2% of students came out to vote. That is a 4.8% drop in voters. The same thing cannot happen in our elections come November.

So remember, you are not just voting for yourself, you are voting for those who don’t have the privilege at this given moment in time. You are voting for a leader that will rise up and transition us through this pandemic. You are voting for your elderly stuck in homes, for people who have COVID19, who are bedridden and fighting to stay alive. For the medical workers that are in the hospital for an ungodly number of hours at a time, for you little siblings who will grow up in the aftermath of COVID19. If you have the capacity to vote, do it.

Your vote matters because your vote matters to someone else.

 

Anna Eaton is a rising Junior at the University at Albany, continuing her education with a major in English and a minor in Theatre. She loves to write, creating art in many different mediums; poetry, songwriting, and prose pieces.

She wants to bring joy into people's lives and she hopes everyone is doing well despite the difficult circumstances. 

Trolley c/o NYS Writers Institute

Science Library 320

University at Albany

Albany NY 12222   

nyswritersinstitute.org 

© 2020 All rights reserved.​

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