Column: Voting shouldn’t be taken for granted

With the midterm vote in the past now, we all should be thinking about voter turnout, and how to increase it in the future

Madi Baughman is a sophomore journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

I was devastated when I wasn’t old enough (by one measly month) to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

But to my surprise, a lot of people I knew simply… didn’t vote. I didn’t understand it. Didn’t they want to have a say in who was going to govern the country for the next four years? It seemed like a pretty big deal to me.

I get that not everyone is into politics, and that makes sense. It can definitely get exhausting at times, trying to keep up with what politicians are saying. However, this shouldn’t affect one’s outlook on voting.

Voting in any election, whether local or national, has the power to impact every aspect of our lives, from the taxes we pay to the food we eat. It may seem like every person is simply one small fish in a very big pond, and it can be hard to say we can individually make a difference.

However, it’s this very mindset that prevents many people from going to the polls. In fact, voter turnout from all eligible voters hasn’t gone above 60 percent since 1968, with the closest being 58.2 percent in the 2008 election. This means that only slightly over half of voting-age Americans got to make decisions about what happened for the rest of the country.

Voter turnout gets even worse with midterm elections, with only around 40 percent of eligible Americans voting on average, according to FairVote. Recently, midterm voting has gotten to a point that I would say could be described as abysmal, with the 2014 midterm elections only seeing 36.7 percent of eligible voters voting — a level the lowest since 1942, according to the United States Elections Project. Young adult voting turnout is especially bad, with turnout in voters aged 18 to 29 making up only 13 percent of the national electorate. This is extremely startling, as midterm elections could be described as arguably more important than the presidential election, since midterm elections decide on the representatives in Congress who make our laws.

However, there is a small bit of a bright outlook. About 58 percent of Missouri’s registered voters turned out to vote in the 2018 midterm election, which is the highest percentage since 1994. If this keeps up, democracy may truly begin to flourish.

I know there are problems with getting to the polls and that’s definitely a valid reason why some people can’t vote — some have work, some don’t have transportation, etc. This is just proof of why it’s so important that we, as a country, provide a way for everybody to vote, because these are people who will be affected by the outcomes of voting too. So next time, remember to get out and vote. It will determine our future.

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