Why Should You Vote?

CVI staff members hold up I Voted stickers

If you’ve recently been online, watched any news, or joined our email list you may have heard that the presidential election is just around the corner. It’s everywhere. You may have seen ads or posts that ask you to “make sure you’re registered to vote!” followed by a “make sure you go out and vote! (#emoji)”. If you’re part of the frequent voter club (or live with someone who is) you may even get a special phone call, mail piece, or invite from campaigns asking for your vote on November 3.

It should be no secret that if you’re a new voter or vote infrequently you’re not going to get much encouragement from the vast majority of Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts. That’s because it costs money to reach voters and frequent voters are seen as dependable voters. Infrequent and new voters are viewed as risky or unreliable. It seems like a Catch-22. New and infrequent voters get ignored because they aren’t frequent voters. New voters become infrequent voters because they don’t get outreached to in a meaningful way. 

That’s why it’s important for those who have been previously excluded from the political process to lead the way towards inclusion and fairness. It’s also important because it works, even in Idaho. So here I am like a feel-good independent film featuring a person of color who saves the day in 2020 to take on the question:

Why should you vote?

The truth is voting has always been a privilege for a few and suppressed for everyone else.

Voter Suppression By Design

The truth is voting has always been a privilege for a few and suppressed for everyone else.

For the election of the first U.S. president George Washington less than 2% of the population voted. Not by accident but by design. U.S. election laws date back to Article 1 of the Constitution where legislators in each state were granted the responsibility of overseeing federal elections. Remember how the constitution’s preamble starts with “We the people”? Well, the original version of the constitution lets states decide who “we” is.  In this framework, the electoral college began to take shape. The only voters who could cast a vote for president were electors chosen by state legislators, not by the will of a popular vote.

It is impossible to overstate the effect of slavery and the removal of indigenous nations had on the idea of representative democracy in the United States. With the creation of the bilateral legislature (the House and Senate we know as Congress) each state would be granted two Senate seats but the number of House seats was decided by total population counts from the census. This led to the creation of the “Three-Fifths Compromise” – found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

This act made Black slaves count as three-fifths of a person in terms of representation along with anyone else deprived indefinitely of their liberty and excluded Native American populations that were “untaxed”. This is the foundation for which our democracy stands on. Looking at how our democracy started allows us to further understand how the actions of political operatives throughout the years have worked to exclude, ignore, and frustrate new voters from participating in our elections. While historic gains have been made to right these wrongs over the course of over 250 years like the Voting Rights of 1965, voter suppression has adapted to counter the work of community leaders, mass movements, and fair policies.

Where we go from here

Even in 2020, voting is still a privileged act. Not all U.S citizens are eligible to vote for representatives or decision-makers. In Idaho, all “qualified voters” must be:

  • At least 18 years of age on election day, 
  • Registered to vote, 
  • A resident for at least 30 days. 

And you are disqualified if:

  • You are currently serving a felony sentence including probation.

There are also thousands of residents who aren’t eligible to vote including Permanent Residents, DACA recipients, refugees, and many more. You may be the only qualified voter in your family, and your community depends on your participation in order to speak to the values and issues your community cares about. By helping your friends, family and neighbors vote every election cycle, especially local elections, you can keep your community’s important issues at the forefront for local decision-makers. 

Voting is not the only way to make an impact. If it was, it would be hard to imagine how ineligible voters changed a system that excluded all but 2% of the population in 1788 to include nearly 50% of the population today.

The truth is your impact is felt and multiplied by everyone you work with.

By working with community members, leaders, nonprofit organizations, and others you can have a large impact on elevating issues, creating community dialog, starting an organization, or even running for your local office like a school board. However, all of these things are made more possible in a healthy democracy, where we all encouraged to vote. 

How to Vote

We know there’s confusion around the upcoming General Election in Idaho, which is why we created a bilingual voter resource page that contains important voting deadlines, how to vote by mail, and more!