Opinion: Don’t vote? Don’t complain

Growing up, I was excited to turn 18, to be able to vote. In my house, my parents voted in every local, state, and national election. My dad would tell me that a school board or county supervisor vote is potentially more important than the presidential election because they could affect your daily life more. My mom is liberal, and  my father conservative, but they always respected each other’s opinions and were able to talk about who they were voting for without the conversation devolving into an argument.

Maybe being excited to finally vote for president was part of why I was upset in the 2016 election cycle. It was the first presidential election since I turned 18 in 2013, and I felt cheated, like seriously? These two are the options I’m being given? This is the state of politics in America, no middle ground or compromise available in any issue?

But I voted. In the presidential and congressional elections, down to the local referendums and judges on the back of the ballot that some people don’t even know are there, I voted. To me, voting is not a right. It is a responsibility. It is a contract between my government and I that I will participate in our indirect democratic system, and in exchange I am given the protection and conveniences America provides.

I have a hard time listening to people who claim not voting is an applicable form of protest. Congratulations, you made it easier for the politicians you don’t like to keep office. If you don’t participate in the democracy, what gives you the right to complain about what’s happening? You have an opportunity to change things. You have the ability to make your voice heard. Seize it. Vote.

You can vote third party, or you can be one of the thousands of people who wrote-in ‘Hennessey’ for president in 2016. That part doesn’t matter to me, but what does matter to me is in the 2016 election only 49 percent of people ages 18-29 voted compared to 69 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 54-72 currently) according to a post-election Newsweek article.

According to Fortune.com, 55 percent of millennials are planning on voting in next month’s midterm election. Nineteen percent of millennials have declared they definitely will not vote. I assume that means 19 percent of millennials have absolutely no problem with our government, because, why wouldn’t you take your opportunity to affect change unless you are perfectly happy with the current state of government?

So you can tweet about how unhappy you are about who is in office, you can get in a Facebook argument about the Heartbeat Bill, but if you say you didn’t vote, I’m done listening. How can I take your opinion seriously if you actively avoided your only chance to make a change? I don’t care for who, but please vote this November.

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