Charlotte held its primary elections on September 12, resulting in one of the lowest voter turnouts in years. Less than 5% of the nearly half a million registered voters exercised their right to vote. How to overcome voter apathy?
The local general elections will take place in November, and there are still people who, despite being eligible to vote, choose not to do so for one reason or another. Below, we will explore some of the common concerns that discourage many Latinos from going to the polls.
1) “I don’t like politics”
More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle asserted that mankind is what he called “zoon politikon”, that is, a political animal. This ‘political animal’ differs from other species because of its ability to form political connections. In other words, humans create partnerships and organize life in communities.
According to Aristotle, all human beings are political animals by nature. This concept remains valid as we all engage in politics when we pay taxes, when we use public services, or when we offer an opinion about the system in which we live. In fact, when someone says “I don’t like politics”, that person is making a political statement.
If participating in political activity is part of our nature, then it makes sense to vote (instead of letting others make decisions about important issues that affect us, such as immigration reform, taxes, health insurance, etc.)
2) “In this system, my vote doesn’t really count”
There is ample evidence that contradicts this statement. Let’s look at just two examples. In the 2000 elections, candidate George W. Bush became president thanks to 537 votes in a precinct in the state of Florida. This small group of people (equivalent to a neighborhood) transformed the future of the country, and much of the world, for the next eight years.
In North Carolina Latinos represent about 4 % of the total number of voters. Although this number may seem small, it is crucial in a close election.
In the 2008 general elections, 40,028 Latinos in the state went to the polls (out of 68,053 registered voters), with the overwhelming majority supporting Barack Obama. Now, note that Obama beat Republican candidate John McCain by 14,177 votes. Clearly, the Latino vote helped Obama win North Carolina.
3) “I don’t like the presidential candidates”
Some say they do not want to be associated with a candidate or political party. The problem is that if a person decides not to act, he or she automatically becomes a collaborator in deciding the outcome.
It is very easy to avoid a difficult situation, but running away from responsibilities will never allow us to grow as individuals or as a nation.There are no perfect candidates. Nevertheless, it is our civic duty to be informed and to act in accordance with our principles.
Additionally, consider that much more than just state and local officials are at stake: the future of Congress, among other positions, will be decided in these important elections.
There are no excuses significant enough to deter us from fulfilling our duty to the country and to our children’s future. The best way to strengthen democracy is to be part of it.
Our newsroom doesn’t take democracy for granted, and we hope you don’t either. This story is part of a collaboration called Democracy Day, in which newsrooms nationwide are drawing attention to threats to democracy. We hope it reminds us all to value our democracy and work to protect it.