An Open Letter to Those Who Don’t Vote

Let’s be real. Voting is something we take for granted. For our generation, voting has always been a right we knew we would get as soon as we turned 18 and registered to vote. We all turned 18, and some of us even registered, but we all have the opportunity to vote. Some people are registered and make up excuses like “I’m busy,” “There are long lines,” or “Politics are dumb.” I cringe at those words. It’s your right and duty as a United States citizen to vote. With the presidential election primaries coming soon (March 16, to be exact) and the presidential election this fall (Nov. 8), it’s really important to let your voice be heard.

Quick history lesson: It hasn’t always been this great for Americans. When America was first founded, only white, male property owners could vote. Over time, those property-owning qualifications were dropped and all white men could vote. But African Americans did not have the right to vote until the passing of the 15th Amendment after the Civil War, outlawing the denial of suffrage based on "race, color or previous condition of servitude." Women were still barred from voting, though.  

African Americans faced discrimination while voting in the south via literacy tests, poll taxes and other hurdles meant to disenfranchise them. This brought about the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Women couldn’t vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920.

Lastly, until 1971, you had to be 21 to vote. The 26th Amendment allowed those 18 and older to vote, which is convenient considering we were sending those who were 18 and older off to war.

My little history lesson is over, but as you can see, voting hasn’t always been a right even in our country. We’ve come so far, and we all have the opportunity to have our voice heard. You matter. You can decide who you want to represent you. And that’s so cool! Twenty-year-old girls in the 1900s would have wanted the right to vote, and so would everyone else who was disenfranchised throughout our history.

Everywhere isn’t like United States. Some countries do not let their citizens vote, or they have faulty elections. They don’t have rights, but we do. We are so lucky to live in the U.S., and many take this freedom of voting for granted.

Voting gives you the right to have a say in how you are governed. Elected officials have a huge effect on everyone’s lives. How could you not want to have a say about your national security, taxes, environmental policies, government programs and a million other things on a national level? And let's not forget other things closely tied to you like the age entry for Midtown, the local taxes, what money goes to and the amount of money UF gets on the state and local level. Shouldn’t we care about who will be making and enforcing laws?

You give up the right to complain about any governmental official or decision if you do not vote. You couldn’t take the few minutes to vote, so you must live with the results.

I know many people feel as if their vote doesn’t matter. But you aren’t the only one with those thoughts. Fifty-five percent of the population eligible to vote in 2012 presidential election voted, leaving out the other 45 percent. That other 45 percent could really make a difference. Or even 10 percent of them.

Throwback to the presidential election of 2000, when only 537 votes in Florida made the difference between Al Gore or George W. Bush winning the electoral college votes, and thus the presidential election. 537 people. That’s insane. Every single vote seriously matters.

Speaking of Florida, we are so lucky to be in a swing state. Sometimes Florida goes with a Republican, and sometimes they go with a Democrat. We have so much say, and we are one of the states the parties go after and try to win over when it comes to the national election. And who doesn’t like people competing for our love?

Lastly, so many have given their service to protect this country and its freedoms. In fact, more than a million have died fighting for U.S. rights, and the right to vote is a huge one. You are ignoring their hard work and sacrifice if you do not vote.

So get out there for the Florida primary on March 15 and Tuesday November 8 for the national election. Voting is an amazing right. Do not waste it, collegiettes.

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