MTV has been trying to “Rock the Vote” for many years, using famous faces to entice the younger end of the voting-eligible population to the polls. That effort is just one of hundreds of such movements to promote voting. Unfortunately, the effects on voter turnout can be disappointing. The efforts are nonetheless crucial in educating the public about their role in running this country. This article shares why voting is an integral part of citizenship.
When the time to elect a United States president rolls around, the news is overflowing with political analysis and heated debate. But the president is just one person elected every four years. Every year in America there are several elections. Citizens can decide who will be mayors, judges, sheriffs, county councilpersons and school board representatives. These positions can have a dramatic effect on taxes, jobs and education, just to name a few issues.
A case in point is the struggle over what to teach in public schools when it comes to science and sex education. One voting cycle in Kansas favored candidates who were against the teaching of biological evolution and advocated strict abstinence in sex education. The next cycle swept different people into power who then reversed the previous stances. This is clear proof that voting can spark dramatic change.
This power to cause change at any level was once only afforded to select few and in some cases only the wealthy. Even after the end of slavery in America, it took a long and sometimes violent civil rights campaign to finally extend the right to vote to African Americans equally across the country.
Similarly, women had to make their voices heard loud and clear to overcome opposition to their voting rights. It wasn’t until after World War I, and an in-your-face approach that included women chaining themselves to a White House fence, that a Constitutional amendment granted women the right to vote. In light of this history, it can be seen that voting in this country wasn’t always something taken for granted.
“A citizen’s vote can even influence the very course of national and world events,” stated Neal Kwatra. “American decision-makers only step into power with the citizens’ votes.”
Presidents choose and Congress approves justices installed on the Supreme Court. And that Supreme Court can declare important issues legal or illegal. The No Child Left Behind law has dramatically changed the landscape of public education. The Patriot Act has altered perceptions on privacy in this country. All of these actions can be traced back to the voting public’s choice of leaders. Their votes counted for a lot.
Many organizations that attempt to pump up citizen participation in the election process oftentimes seem to be spitting into the wind. It does appear challenging to entice people to the polls. But their efforts should never slacken off as the right to vote shapes the community around us, draws from a rich history, and can even direct the flow of world events.
About Neal Kwatra
In his first year running Metropolitan Public Strategies (MPS), Neal Kwatra made history—leading Ken Thompson to victory as the first-ever African American to be elected Brooklyn District Attorney and the first challenger to defeat an incumbent D.A. in more than 100 years in Kings County. He founded MPS in 2013 and has since been at the forefront of some of the most fiercely contested political and advocacy campaigns in New York and across the nation.