Perhaps I should have changed the title of this post to “The Americans Who Stayed At Home”. That’s really where this all lies. In the aftermath of the election, I was reading some posts on Facebook and came across one from someone I am related to. He and his wife shall remain nameless, but what they posted troubled me greatly. They basically congratulated President Obama for his victory and then wrote that they were proud of the fact that they did not vote. I could not believe what I was reading. How can any American citizen not have the desire to exercise the voice granted us by the United States Constitution? How can any American citizen not have the desire to vote in our electoral system?
I couldn’t let that pass by (probably should have), so I commented that they should be ashamed of themselves. You know, with my usual discrete tactfulness. I was quickly informed that it was not an obligation that Americans vote. That if it were an obligation, it would not be freedom. Of course, they are technically right. It is a freedom of choice, whether we choose to vote or not. I responded that they were throwing away the sacrifices already paid so we could have that freedom and they said it was still their right and we would have to agree to disagree. I left well enough alone and did not respond, but my mind has been rolling, trying to get a handle on the attitude I saw displayed.
We all know many elections have a very small turnout. In an election of such importance, one would think that Americans would want to voice their opinion in the most powerful way available, but that is not the case. Mitt Romney received fewer votes than did John McCain. Barack Obama received fewer votes than he did in 2008. Do the majority of Americans simply not care about the direction of our country? I do not know the percentage of Americans who are actually registered to vote, but according to voting statistics that were certified early this year, there is a gap of 60 million people between the number of Americans who are eligible to vote and those who are not registered. There is a difference of over 15 million people between the number of Americans who are registered to vote and those who choose not to vote.
Some of these people are not doubt, disillusioned by the system. Many of them probably believe that it does no good to vote. Some of them probably do not care, as long as they are not troubled from their busy schedule. Almost 18% of those who choose not to vote cite conflicting schedules. With the number of ways we have to vote in America, that is a shame. There are also those who did not vote on November 6 because they did not like the choices. That is their privilege, but it does not take away from the fact that many of them chose not to make their opinions known by voting.
Where does that leave our country? I firmly believe America would not be in the shape it is in, if the people who should be voting actually exercised that right and voiced their opinions at the ballot box. We can complain about the system all we want, that it does not good to vote, but it would make a vast difference, if more of us came out to vote. For that, we have no one to blame but ourselves.