Talking Story

vote-cartoonWhen it comes to electing the President of The United States, your vote doesn’t matter.

Really.

Growing up in Hawaii, this point was hammered home every election year when the new president thanked his supporters hours before our polls closed.

Just think about that for a second. In Hawaii, you heard both the concession and victory speeches in your car on the way to the polls. It’s tough to get fired up about choosing a president when you know your candidate will win or lose regardless of your support.

Americans tend to think our federal government is a simple democracy; it’s not. It’s a constitutional republic with an electoral college. Not all votes have the same weight. Statistically, your single vote does nothing to elect a president. Maybe the reason American voter turnout is so low has less to do with apathy and more with a growing sense of futility.

But here’s how your vote does matter.

In a Presidential election, you fulfill your civic duty by voting. It’s a responsibility you accept as a US Citizen. When it comes to civic duty, for whom you vote isn’t nearly as important as the act itself.

For this reason, I believe voting in a presidential election is less about electing a president than it is a statement of character—our votes define what we value. Even the decision not to vote is an act that speaks to an individual’s character.

To vote (or not vote) is to act, and just like any other deed, we’re accountable for our actions. First, to ourselves, then to our families, our neighbors, and our country. In my faith tradition, I’m also accountable to God. Regardless of your personal beliefs, imagine a moment where you are asked to explain your vote others. Now imagine those future people are living with the consequences of your actions.

For me, that’s sobering.

In the 2016 US Presidential Election, I’m not advocating a particular party or candidate. That’s not the point of this article. I’m just trying to provide a little perspective.

If you set aside the idea that your vote actually elects the president and instead consider your vote as an conscious act of aligning yourself—your character—with the person you most believe is fit to lead our country, you’ll care more about issues and less about party lines. It becomes less about shouting down others—whose votes also matter just as little as yours—and more about defining what you stand for.

Can you imagine a country where every citizen ignored the fear mongers, spin doctors, salacious reports, and voter polls? What if people focused instead on truly understanding who they were choosing to align themselves with?

That was the intent of our nation’s founders, by the way. They believed in the power of the aggregate, that whatever a majority of good people believed to be best would really be the best.

Let’s validate the faith they had in us. Let’s think of the future. On Election Day, let’s make sure our votes matter.

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