With the presidential election just around the corner, many American voters — or rather, potential non-voters — have found themselves struggling to passionately back either of the two candidates. But this isn't a horse race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, it's about survival.
This election isn't about whether you like Biden, it's about the future of the BLM movement, of reproductive freedom, LGBTQ rights, climate justice, and how many people will survive the pandemic. Or, as congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) put it, "Voting for Joe Biden is no longer about whether you agree with him. It's a vote to let our democracy live another day."
If elected, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris must be held accountable, especially given their track record on supporting the war on drugs and overreaching "tough on crime" policies that have overwhelmingly targeted Black and brown communities. But any meaningful reform to the carceral system and environmental policy can only happen if they are elected to office. The alternative — another Trump presidency — would be disastrous for our collective future.
In this election, it's vital you make your vote count, or your inaction will speak for you. Tens of millions of registered voters did not cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, citing a “dislike of the candidates or campaign issues” as their main reason for not participating, a Pew Research Center analysis found. These non-voters unwittingly handed a candidate they might not even have supported the win.
Who you vote for will inform the conditions that environmental, BLM, LGBTQ, and immigrant advocacy organizers can push for meaningful reform. Below, we've answered some of your questions about voter apathy and voting strategically.
What if you're not riding with Biden?
For young people marching against police brutality, a Biden/Harris ticket isn't the perfect solution. But your vote could give Democrats full control of Congress, which is the most effective way progressive policy can be implemented over the next four years, and that matters for police reform, climate policy, and more.
The 2016 election delivered Republicans the White House in addition to both chambers of Congress; Democrats turned that around when they flipped the House of Representatives in 2018.
Why aren't people voting?
The primary reason for voter apathy in polls in recent years, a study found, is that registered voters expressed far lower levels of satisfaction with their choices of candidates. 15 percent of non-voters also reported a feeling that their vote wouldn’t make a difference.
However, another reason for people not to hit the polls is simply that they are barred from doing so. Many reported being too busy or having a conflicting schedule (14 percent), having an illness or disability (12 percent), and being out of town or away from home (8 percent). For non-white voters, strategies including voter suppression can make the task of voting an insurmountable challenge.
However, even these obstacles can be overcome. With initiatives tackling voter suppression and the option of mail-in voting or early voting becoming more popular and available, the barrier to casting your vote is being lowered.
Why is voting so crucial in 2020?
The surge in nonvoters who cited not liking the candidates or campaign issues as their reason for not voting in 2016 extended across all major demographic subgroups. This is despite the fact that the overall eligible voting population now stands as the most racially and ethnically diverse ever. The election results should represent the interests of this diverse population and the only way to ensure this is to go out and vote.
Additionally, 14 million Americans have turned 18 and become eligible to vote since the last election, making millennials the largest voting block. On election day, one out of 10 eligible voters will be part of Gen Z. This generational shift should also be reflected in politics and policy-making from here on out.
It goes without saying that this is a high-stakes election this year, and it would be extremely detrimental to your political values to forfeit your vote.
Strategic voting (or tactical voting) occurs when a voter supports a candidate more strongly than their sincere preference in order to prevent an undesirable outcome. Voting driven by strategic considerations is opposed to "sincere voting."
As divisive as this voting tactic is, with the current defunct two-party system, strategic voting is an unfortunate thing that we need to do based on the broken voting system.
Whether you want to prevent an undesirable candidate’s victory, or you identify with certain policy areas of a specific political party, or you are fundamentally against the hate-mongering ideals of one candidate, you should use your vote — no matter what.