Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal just voted for the first time in his life at 48 years old. On his podcast "The Big Podcast with Shaq," the former basketball player revealed he had never voted in an election, and that he did so for the first time this year with an absentee ballot. Shaq's testimony demonstrates that it's never too late to use your vote.
"You know I always like being honest on my podcast. I've never voted before, America," O'Neal said. "But, now I'm doing all these voting campaigns, and you know one thing I never like to do is be a hypocrite [...] In other words, America, I voted for the first time, and it feels good."
His co-hosts were surprised at what he had just said. The thing that apparently kept Shaq from voting was that he "didn't understand the electoral college system." He cited the 2016 election as an example of one person winning the popular vote, then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but the other winning the election, Donald Trump.
However, his days of political apathy are over, as demonstrated by his involvement in the #MyStartingFive voting challenge to encourage more people to get registered and ready to vote. O'Neal noted there was "no excuse" for not voting earlier, but he is glad to change his ways.
Shaq isn't alone. Voter apathy is real with as many as half of eligible voters in the US still not participating in the election process. The US lags far behind other developed countries when it comes to voter turnout. Notably, only 55.7% of Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, and even less, only 36.4%, voted in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.
For many people hitting the polls isn't as easy. Hundreds of thousands of non-voters would vote if they could, however, everything from logistics to socioeconomic status can get in the way. And voter suppression tactics make it even harder for minority communities to cast their vote. However, initiatives like Lebron James' More Than a Vote are changing this.
The truth is, whether there are systemic barriers in the way of you casting your vote or you're like Shaq and just never decided to get involved in the elections, it's never too late to turn things around. Your voice counts and could make the difference you want to see in your country. Remember that full voter participation helps maintain a fair and functioning democracy.
With that in mind, check out our voting guide to learn everything you need to know about casting your vote.