I don’t know about you, but I haven’t always been the most consistent voter. Sure, I tried to vote in presidential elections (assuming I remembered to request my absentee ballot in time, oops). But I typically snoozed on the in-between ones. I always told myself: My one single vote never really matters anyway, right?
Wrong! My entire perspective changed in 2018, when I managed a state senate campaign in Nebraska. I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of voting that I am eager to share with anyone who will listen. Just ask my hairdresser!
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I could ramble off a list of duty-related reasons that we’ve all probably heard: Voting is our civic responsibility. Women fought for my right to vote. We owe it to those who can’t vote to not waste our privilege.
All of these are very true. But today, I want to present a more pragmatic reason why you should vote as often as possible. Even if you’re already a dedicated voter yourself, maybe this will help you persuade your less-dedicated friends to join you.
I present to you: why you should vote for purely selfish reasons.
I’m not going to pretend that your vote will numerically make the difference on a candidate winning or a ballot measure passing.
Don’t get me wrong, that has happened before. Here in Virginia, one 2017 state senate race came out as a dead tie. They had to pull the winner’s name out of a bowl! That race determined which party controlled the entire state house. One vote could’ve reshaped the commonwealth’s entire legislative agenda.
But 99.99% of the time, this doesn’t happen. It can feel like your individual ballot doesn’t make a difference, especially if you live in a “solid red” or “solid blue” part of the country. So why go through all the trouble?
Here’s why: your vote always leaves a permanent impact on your district, no matter the election’s outcome.
Like I mentioned, I worked as a campaign manager in 2018. As with most campaigns, we had limited resources. We couldn’t afford to reach every potential voter in our district, so we had to make choices. Most campaigns prioritize outreach to people who have consistent voting records. Why? Because persuading a definite voter is a more reliable return on your investment than persuading a “maybe” or “unlikely” voter.
I remember one day when our campaign had to decide what methods of communication to focus our resources on: “traditional” methods like phone calls and mailers, or newer methods like texting and digital ads. I looked up the average age of people living in our district: 35 years old. “Cool!” I thought. “Mostly mid-career families. They probably don’t have landlines but spend a lot of time on social media. Decision made!”
But then I looked at the average age of people voting in our district: 59 years old. Suddenly, our entire strategy was upended.
Your district’s voter demographic averages — age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, you name it —determine so much about the choices that end up on your ballot. They influence who chooses to run, what issues they focus on, and how they interact with voters.
Your single vote permanently yanks your district’s averages one step closer to wherever you fall on those categories. For me, I make my district’s average voter profile younger and more female every time I vote. Always, no matter the outcome.
If you want to hear directly from candidates about the issues that you care about, the best thing you can do is vote in every possible election.
Imagine the difference this would make for military families if we all voted.
Our community would go from being a forgotten constituency to a sought-after one. Think about the changes we all want to see: from housing to healthcare to how often our country goes to war. No matter the issue, the best thing we can do is vote whenever possible.
The last MOAA survey showed that only 36% of military spouses vote in every election. 60% did not feel like voting information was easy to find, and 73% did not feel actively encouraged to vote.
That’s one of the reasons I launched the Secure Families Initiative (SFI): because I want to see 100% of our community voting! We provide guidance about registering to vote, reminders about upcoming deadlines, and trainings for folks who want to take the next step and become advocates for their families. Check out our website.
And don’t forget to vote!