The history of voting and elections stretches far back in time. Ancient Greece seems to have been home to the earliest form of democracy. Voters could only be male landowners. Similar restrictions continued through the years and across nations, but different groups – like women – fought for more equal voting rights. Throughout the world, there are different voting systems, but the process is always important. Here are ten reasons why:
#1. Voting protects democracy
At its core, voting is about democracy. The more people participate in elections and exercise their right to vote, the more important it is for politicians to represent voter interests. If people don’t participate, politicians won’t be motivated to listen because their positions aren’t at risk. An active voting population protects democracy.
#2. Every vote matters
Many people don’t vote because they believe their one vote doesn’t matter. The reality is that elections are often decided by very close margins. This is especially true for smaller, local elections. There are already fewer voters in these smaller races, so each vote holds a lot of weight. If everyone realized their vote matters, governments would be significantly more representative.
#3. Voting shapes social agendas
There are many social issues affected by elections, including (but not limited to) marriage, reproductive rights, capital punishment, freedom of speech, and religion. Social issues affect everyone in one way or another. To have a say in who gets to pass laws on social agendas and what laws are put in place, voting is essential.
#4. Voting shapes the economy
The laws within a society don’t only affect social issues, they shape the economy, as well. This includes laws on taxes, the cost of higher education, student loan policies, social security benefits, and healthcare costs. Politicians voted into office also decide on governmental budgets, such as how much money goes to the military versus social safety net services. By voting, people can make their economic priorities clear.
#5. Voting affects environmental policies
As climate change continues to threaten the future, it’s more important than ever to vote with the environment in mind. Globally, environmental policies have become contentious and urgent. Some politicians understand the dire situation we’re in while others continue to deny there’s even a problem. Voters decide who will make the important decisions.
#6. Voting affects foreign policy
All nations must engage with other countries whether it’s on trade, shared interests, or resolving conflicts. Many voters may not think much about how their votes determine foreign policy, but these policies can affect everyday things like how much goods cost, the price of gas, and job opportunities. For people in the military or who work internationally, foreign policy is also extremely significant.
#7. Voting impacts your wallet
Speaking of how much things cost, voting also has a direct effect on your money. Elected officials at a local and national level are in charge of countless budgets. Taxes, which are taken from your paycheck, fill out those budgets. Voting lets you have a say in where that money goes and who has to pay what. As an example, the tax rate for the wealthiest people is an area of huge interest in the United States. How little corporations pay in taxes is also frequently on the ballot in the form of politicians who oppose or favor higher taxes.
#8. Voting holds leaders accountable
In places where voters fill out the government, votes have a lot of power. If a politician is chosen because of their promises, but then backs down, voters can vote them out. This accountability is a huge reason why free and fair elections are so important. If voting rights are threatened, it inhibits peoples’ ability to hold elected officials accountable. Politicians can remain in power and break their promises even if most of their constituents want them gone.
#9. Voting impacts the present and the future
People vote on the issues that matter to them now, but voting also impacts the future. The most notable example is found in the court system. In places like the United States, citizens don’t directly vote for the Supreme Court justices, who serve lifetime appointments and whose rulings reverberate through time. However, people do vote for the President and members of Congress. The President is the one who selects judges and then Congress votes on their confirmation. Many people believe that’s why voting for a President is so important. It’s less about the President (who can only serve up to 8 years) and more about who they might select for a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the country.
#10. Voting is part of protecting human rights
The ability to have a say in who runs your government is a human right. In places without some form of a voting system, people can’t participate in the government. People can’t run for elected office if they want to change things. Leaders aren’t held accountable through elections. The right to vote also maintains and protects other human rights, such as the freedom of association and freedom of expression. Voting matters because human rights matter.