The Significance of Your Vote

October 30, 2014 • Columnists, Youth

NicoleGadie.20130923210510[2]By Nicole Gaddie, JACL NY/SC Chairperson

Midterm elections are often met with apathy.

What impact could a single vote have on our increasingly polarized government? Maybe it’s hope. Maybe it’s American citizenship.

As Americans, we have the opportunity to be problem solvers, contributors in a self-governing community. Yet, voter turnout for youth ages 18-29 ranks far below any other age category (http://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p20-573.pdf). Additionally, only about three-in-10 Asian American eligible voters have cast ballots in midterm elections since 1998.

Sitting out of local elections seems to be a trend for youth. According to the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf), during the presidential election in 2008, Millennials represented 21 percent of all Virginians who cast their vote. One year later during the gubernatorial election, less than 10 percent of the voting population were Millennials. The nonvoting pattern stretched across the United States.

These numbers might seem bleak, especially when Asian Americans make up 5.6 percent of the total U.S. population and youth make up a quarter of the population (and a third of the electorate). However, they also prove that we have a large potential force.

We can use this force to elect quality leaders who represent our voice. We can sway any election, especially local elections. Whether it be governor, mayor, city council member or state senator, all have a serious impact on our communities and daily life.

Don’t know who to vote for or what issues are being contested? Read the local newspaper or watch televised debates. Attend political forums and become an informed and engaged citizen. We have a plethora of information and opportunity at our fingertips —it is wasteful not to use it.

Congress might be gridlocked, but that doesn’t need to stop our communities from progressing. Voting can mean the difference in allowing two people to get married. It can determine how firearms are sold. It can direct where our energy comes from or how leaders respond to a racialized attack.

Ultimately, if you don’t turn out to vote, you can’t complain about a government that doesn’t represent you.

Voting takes place on Nov. 4. Take pride in electing your congressmen. Generations marched, fought and died for the right to vote. As AAPI youth, we can’t let that right be wasted.

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