How To Give at Least One F About Voting

Because nagging young folks to vote isn’t good enough

Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

I finally feel like a half-way decent American citizen. After 12 years of voting eligibility, 4 presidential election cycles, and 1 of which was the historic election of the first Black president, I finally gave a genuine F about voting.

It’s all thanks to the pandemic. Well, more specifically, it’s all thanks to the mail-in-vote option that allowed me to sit in front of my laptop, take all the time I needed to google every candidate and contest, and become grossly invested in some of the issues. Now, I can say…I get the hype over this voting thing!

“Vote? Eh.”

Why is my political journey from apathy to actualization relevant? Because for a country that heralds itself as a beacon of democracy, we’ve been historically represented by only around 55.7% of the voting population. Elections for state officials and midterm elections have even more abysmal turnouts. Then, if we hone in on the statistics, it’s been significantly clear that young people ages 18 to 29 aren’t about that voting life.

On the right, a graph from The Sanders Institute comparing voter turnout by country sourced from Pew Research Center. On the left, a graph from the Census Bureau analyzing voting rates by age.

But first, full disclosure: This year bumped me out of the young voter category. Could that be a reason for my shift in attitude? Maybe. Nonetheless, with the myriad of reasons young voter turnout is low, I can’t help but feel that at least one 18 to 29 year old can relate to the “Eh…” attitude I’ve felt towards voting.

That apathy can be interpreted in a lot of ways.

  • Feeling overwhelmed by something as simple as political jargon.
  • Feeling hopeless that the “powers that be” won’t give a crap what you say.
  • Feeling inconvenienced because voting on a Tuesday, though?

“Okay, I’ll vote! Yeesh!”

Despite all of that, I still exercised the right to vote. I did the bare minimum and drug myself to voting booths every four years and played eenie meenie miney mo for half of the ballot. But —* in Biden’s voice* — here’s the deal: I voted for one reason.

Shame.

In all three presidential elections, it was the fear of being shamed. I can’t even credit the millions of dollars spent on ads to have P. Diddy and every other celebrity and their momma tell young people to vote (as if that works). I just didn’t want to look like the one ungrateful jerk that threw away her chance at helping her fellow citizens.

Frankly, shame is never a sustainable motive to do anything. All the airplanes in the world dragging a “Vote!” sign in the sky are no longer gentle reminders but a command being shoved down my throat. Sure, that gets me to the voting booth, but my votes never felt meaningful. I can’t imagine feeling that way for the rest of my voting life.

There’s got to be more. And thanks to the convenience of voting at home this year (or turning one year older with a child entering the public school system), I understand what it takes to give an F about voting.

One F is good enough

For something so pivotal to adulting, it sucks that I relied on a hazy memory of eighth-grade social studies and US history to know what voting is all about.

Clearly, that isn’t enough. Throwing out a one-word blanket, command over and over as if it’s as easy as flossing, isn’t enough either. Because as I’ve learned from mail-in-ballots, voting is not as easy as flossing.

Voting takes time. Voting takes effort. Voting takes work.

So here’s what you can do to give at least one F about voting.

1. Get in the know

Imagine if our public education system provided civic education for 18-year-olds-to-be on things like:

But as for now, it’s left for us to research. The more we know from the start, the more we can feel confident enough to vote and keep voting.

2. Get in with the locals

The emphasis on voting is heavily placed on the presidential election. However, the candidates and their policies feel so intangible. Combine that with the feeling that our vote won’t be heard, and it’s easy to resign to whatever others decide.

But I’ve found the antidote for that feeling of resignation is participating in our local politics, state and municipal government, where results are more tangible. That was the gamechanger for me.

Think voting for funds to build better roads, so you’re less likely to be stuck in traffic going to work. Or electing judges that are for prison reform. Or selecting the school board members to ensure your child’s experience in the public school system is optimal. Having a preschooler entering the school system is what motivated me to vote. It’s invigorating to know you can have a say in matters that most directly affect you.

3. Get in the race!

I’ve yet to run for local office, but being more aware of my municipal government has lit a fire under me to play a bigger part. More than just vote, I want to see more 18 to 29-year-olds make their vision come true and hold offices in their local government. Imagine what can be done!

In conclusion, I won’t use my 1000 words to command anyone to vote. I’ve had enough of that myself. I now know from experience, it’s easier said than done. Instead, I want to be a voice among many to say it takes effort to care about voting. So let that desire to vote come from a place beyond the fear of shame or resignation. Let it be because you actually know what you need to know to care about voting.

Learning to be human. Learning to love bigger.

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