Featured Image Credit: Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash

I voted for a party today.

Not for an issue that I cared about. I don’t even know if I agreed with the people I filled in bubbles for. I barely knew anything about the people I listed on the ballot. So why did I vote? Well, I felt coerced.

In the weeks prior to election day, I went on the state website and ballotopedia to look up our current candidates’ views on the issues. However, what I found is that most of them had “no data” next to their names in the charts presented. Even with new technologies allowing to categorize tweets, most of the candidates did not have a twitter account. Therefore, I realized that I, as an individual, am now tasked to do extensive research on these candidates to figure out who they are and what they represent.


I understand that as citizens of this country, we play some kind of part in the system that is the United States Government. And I get that we need to educate ourselves about our politicians. However, what I don’t understand is why we as citizens, where there are a few hundred million of us, each have to individually do this much research when our system could simply work to fit our needs faster. We have the technology. We have the means.

What I do understand is that politicians are distant from us to the point that they don’t give a shit. They don’t want us to vote for human rights because filling that need is hard and takes actual consideration and work. Votes are being suppressed and it’s commonplace to cheat in the system we currently have. Honesty is not a value that is mutually shared.

I can educate myself easily about how to vote. There have been numerous emails, Facebook posts, tweets, push notifications, and all kinds of information using modern technology on the process of voting. I received an enormous amount of push to register to vote. I actually registered at my local library and the process is quite easy, at least in my state.

But that’s not the issue here. You can be registered, but there may be other factors discouraging a person to vote. I actually want to explore all the reasons behind not voting here, for my own curiosity.

External Complications

These create tangible obstacles that prevent votes from being cast.

PO Boxes not being accepted.
Which affects those living on reservations, and people who may be homeless.

Those people who are jailed for felonies automatically get their vote revoked. Incarceration then becomes a tool for suppression.

Suppressed votes
In addition to the obvious ways in which votes may be suppressed, there are the ways we don’t see well. Gerrymandering, cheating by creating false profiles, hacking into counting systems, or other movements that go under the radar that we as a people may not be able to directly control.

Improper Voting Locations/Sizes
Today, I saw so many stories and posts about how their voting locations were not prepared for the numbers of voters coming at the polls. The lines were ridiculous and some of the machines could not handle the load of ballots coming in. In addition, some people are still driving a substantial commute to their polling place, especially if they work in a different city and have to drive all the way home to vote. This is a huge problem, which leads me to the next issue:

Outdated Technology
We have so many ways of sharing information with modern technology, and yet, we are still voting on paper. I hear protests to keep the antiquated system because “paper is more reliable” and “the internet is a public space, making your information public!” To be fair, I hear these concerns most from my Baby Boomer co-workers and my dad.

Look. We voted on paper in 2016 and yet hackers still affected the system. What we need to do is ensure we allocate resources properly to get the best cybersecurity that we can, and with that, provide multiple options for voting. We have cellphones with face recognition, fingerprint recognition, encryption, voice recognition, etc. I’m sure we can figure something out to keep things secure AND ensure that everyone is actually eligible to vote and is voting once. Why are we still having to wait in line to vote on a paper ballot? Come on, guys.

No time off from work.
And in addition, many people will actually be punished by their workplace if they’re late to work – despite knowing that it’s election day. It has been a high discussion for a while that we should have election day as a national holiday like it is in other countries. I personally think that there should be a timeline – an entire week where polls are open for you to go vote (with one dedicated day that is a complete holiday). Is that asking for too many resources to accomplish such a feat? Have more digital methods of voting, or allow everyone to mail in ballots.

Required Research conflicting with work.
Like I mentioned above, I quickly learned that in order to know my candidates’ views, I would have to do hours upon hours of dedicated research. Quite frankly, this is something I am adept at if I have a working timeframe. However, in the weeks leading up to this election, I have actually been very busy. I can imagine spending my 4-5 hours of free time every night after work, looking up candidates, watching their interviews on Youtube or C-Span, reading their words and uncovering their history. That in itself is a full-time job. I can’t even imagine doing that much work if I had kids, more than one job, caring for an elderly or sick member of my family, running a business, or any of those daily life things that require time and attention. And when research isn’t fun, nor a natural talent for a person, there’s really no motivation to uncover the thoughts of these politicians. Literacy is a huge barrier. Accessibility is a huge barrier. Time, attention, focus, and access to the resources needed to do this research are all necessary before you can even start learning about your candidates. There’s gotta be a better way.

Antiquated Campaign Tactics
Perhaps older folks might be thinking “What do you mean there’s no access? Haven’t you seen the campaign commercials?” I haven’t. Simply because I cannot afford cable, but even if I could, it has little value to me. I think the majority of people in my age group also do not pay for cable. If getting cable to see a commercial or two is what I need to do to find out about my candidates in a convenient way, $150+ a month is a pretty steep price for that luxury. The alternative, of course, is extensive research, which the common person may not have the resources or the mental aptitude to perform.

Two-Party System
Before I move on from the External Complications portion, I just want to say that I notice a particular reality about the way the ballot is designed. All year round it’s Democrats vs Republicans, but we rarely get to hear about the other parties. In addition, there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in that “3rd parties would never get elected,” especially when nuanced and non-standard state-laws affect the power of the 3rd party in federal matters. (I know today was the local election, but still. You know where I’m going here.) Knowing that your local John Doe’s vote won’t count (literally) because he didn’t register for the democratic party and he’s voting as a libertarian makes no sense to me. Why do you need to change your party for your vote to count? Why does it need to match up? And why does this law change in every state? If every vote counts, this sure does not reassure me.

Internal Complications

These create moral or emotional barriers to casting a vote.

And here we are. At the meat of the discussion. This is the part where boomers will point at millennials and condescend. Where people start yelling “snowflake” and accuse them of not doing their duty because of their sensitive little feelings. “Vote” will be chanted continuously as if this little mono-syllabic mantra was all we needed after all to finally care.

Before I voted, I read a number of articles on why I should vote. Every single one of them inserted a false dichotomy or ultimatum. All of them had negative things to say to anyone who did not vote. Every single one. They would say things like “Not voting is a choice for result you don’t want.” No it is not. Not voting is not voting. And I’ll get to the finer details of the emotional/moral reasons why people don’t vote in just a minute.

Shame will not counter apathy. If those older than millennials want to shame them for not taking a specific action, then teach. Out of all of the articles I’ve read, none give a concrete reason TO vote. They only tell me how I will be perceived for not voting, or what ‘system’ I am inadvertently ‘voting for’ by not voting. If you want to teach someone who feels apathetic, take your emotions out of it. Be the elder and teach.

When people talk about millennials who are too apathetic to vote, they frequently cite common tropes and stereotypes around this generational image. “Get off Snapchat and vote!” or “Stop being so obsessed with the Kardashians and go vote!”.

In 2014, every single member of the millennial generation became an adult. The last of this generation turned 18. You are overdue in talking to them as such. Please start.

Instead of “motivating” millennials to vote by chanting your preconceived assumptions about what they do in daily life, how about asking them why they would prefer to engage in media that’s entertaining and why they might avoid watching the news. And when they give you their answer, do not judge them. Ask them more questions that help facilitate an understanding of their underlying motivations. Once you get where they’re coming from, provide them with objective information to help persuade them to vote. That is a much better approach than simply blaming them for not giving a shit.

Speaking of which, I know I went off on a tangent. And yes, I did get emotional. Let me restate my subheader:

Millennials are apathetic. But not only millennials. Of course, it’s easy to blame this generation since we’re young, (although we’re all adults), and have no work ethic (although there are systemic pressures preventing us from ‘adulting’ properly as it is way beyond most of our pay grades – if we even have the luxury of having a pay grade).

There are plenty of articles explaining the general mindset of millennial in terms of apathy. Let me link 3 to get you started:

Why Millennials are the Apathetic Generation: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/millennials-apathetic-generation

Do Millennials Care About Anything: https://www.theatlantic.com/sponsored/allstate/when-it-comes-to-politics-do-millennials-care-about-anything/255/

The Science Behind Why Millennials Don’t Vote: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinebeaton/2016/11/04/whymillennialsarentvoting/#4e4ea6e589c2

And in addition to those, I would like to present my own personal experience.

I have witnessed two presidential elections in which the popular vote did not win. I know that gerrymandering is legal and commonplace. I know that, even if the candidate I voted for does happen to win despite all of this, there will still be things that they do without my consent that I cannot vouch for. I know that I will not be consulted before those unsavory actions are taken. So much of government policy is determined behind the backs of those who voted. A lack of transparency is an issue, but even more is the fact that politicians are allowed to lie to your face and never be held accountable for it. And some of our most gruesome actions as a country were not decided by the country, yet the two major parties managed to find common ground and vote for those actions. Drone strikes and private prisons are two major issues in which parties tend to agree whole-heartedly, despite public opinion.

It’s not that I don’t care about politics. I actually think that politics is a huge part of life and I know it affects me greatly. Many of our largest concerns about living a healthy life are political issues. But I often wonder if and why voting is the best way to alter my quality of life.

This is only the beginning of explaining the source of apathy.

To add to the moral fabric of the collective consciousness, we must view the image we have of politics. I don’t see politics as a clean game at all. There is opinion being swayed by money, lies being told to our faces, and greed as a prime motivators for our candidates rather than a genuine concern for our states and our nation. The word “politics” was first used in a negative light in 1853. And that mindset continues to remain until today. Everyone knows the world of politics is corrupt. But our votes won’t change the system itself.

I don’t know if you know this, but there is no American Dream for most millennials. Or rather, the American Dream is only a dream for a simple entertainment of the image. A nice bedtime story instilled in us at the pure age of five, and ripped away from us at our college graduation. The great majority of us aren’t even marginally close to financial stability, or owning our own homes. Most of us are roommates.

Add this to the universal truth that politicians lie, and there doesn’t seem much reason to utilize voting as a tactic to help foster the advancement of our lives. And before you say we just want free stuff, I just want you to know that millennials know how taxes work. Thanks.

The Illusion of Choice
People like to say that there is choice in voting. “You have the Republicans and the Democrats. Then you have everyone else, but they’re not important and they won’t win, so just ignore those guys. Anyway, you vote for the lesser of the two evils. Then your voice is heard!” Our voices were heard that we wanted Hillary, the lesser of two evils, but we didn’t get her. Our voices were heard that we wanted police brutality to end, well before MLK’s iconic speech in 1963, yet it continues on through multiple democratic presidencies. Our voices were heard that we all want basic human rights to be respected, yet we’re still struggling to achieve this feat hundreds of years after the first announcement. Sure, we’ve made progress. However, a small margin of it was through voting.

An Ineffective System
People say we have a democracy, but the truth of the matter is we do not. From the electoral college to gerrymandering to lobbying.

Here was an interesting set of words I found (Source | The bold emphasis is mine):

“Voting is a check on government abuse that has interesting characteristics. It appears to be a mixed blessing. The advantage is clear. If the people vote for their representatives, who are occasionally put back to the vote, the representatives will desire to appease the people. If the representatives abuse their position or become unpopular with the people, they can be voted out. In this way, a bloodless revolution is possible. This should make revolutions easier, and a stray government will come in to line easier.

No longer can a government violate its citizens rights with only a threat of violent retaliation to fear. A threat, by the way, that is rarely acted on, has unknown chances of success, and takes quite a lot of abuse before men are willing to risk their lives, fortunes, and families to carry it through. Without voting, dictators know they can do just about anything if it’s introduced in small enough doses. Voting reduces the size of the doses even more. The people will not stand for much abuse.

The disadvantages of voting are not as clear. The first disadvantage is that the threshold for pain before violence increases. With the ability to vote, people will be far less likely to resort to violence to end government abuse. If the government does act in a truly vicious manner, the populace will just tell themselves that in the next election, they’ll remedy things. Of course, justice delayed may be justice lost. Some things cannot wait a few years.

Another downside to voting is that the government can hide behind the shield of being properly elected. The people begin to believe in Democracy as a good in itself, and an elected official as their voice. Calls for any number of abuses in the name of the “public good” become more reasonable if a man elected by a majority of voters says it. The effect is that public becomes more susceptible to abuse due to its camouflage.”

Final Words

If I were to convince a person to vote, I think I would start with acknowledging the system’s limitations. I would lay out what voting will actually achieve. I do want to brainstorm some concrete, objective reasoning for why we should vote, removing any bias or false ultimatums/dichotomies. I’m not sure if this can even be achieved, simply because of the over-saturation of misguided beliefs around the system. But it is 11pm and I need to be up at 6am for work, so I will leave this here for now.

If you can share your thoughts in a way that does not condescend others, and actually contributes and gives insight to others, please share those thoughts. Otherwise, it’s already been said before.

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