As the election cycle comes to a close and ballots begin getting mailed in, our feeds have been flooded with celebrities, influencers, and friends telling their followers to make their ballot count. Voting has always been a fundamental American right and the foundation of our democracy, but it’s never been easily accessible to all. Through voter suppression, people of color, low-income communities, and women have faced many difficulties in the process. When the U.S. was founded, the only eligible voters were white men who owned land. The Fifteenth Amendment gave Black men the right to vote, and it wasn’t until 1920 that the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. Black women faced voter suppression for far longer, all the way until the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. Currently, the Trump administration is trying to suppress voting nationally by defunding the USPS during a pandemic when most Americans need to vote by mail.
Along with voter suppression, many Americans are suspicious of voting due to the electoral college. Established in 1787 during the Constitutional Convention, the college was designed to ensure the election had a safeguard of educated electors who would have the final say in the presidential nomination. Every state gets a certain number of electors based on representatives in Congress. There are a total of 528 electoral votes; the candidate that gets more than half wins. This simply defies democracy—it upends the promise that We The People guarantees by taking the most vital decision of who will lead the country out of our hands. It is wrong, and it is terrifying.
With all this in mind, it makes sense why Americans—especially young ones—are reluctant to vote. It seems like we can’t actually make any individual change when the odds are so obviously stacked against us.
So why is it imperative that we vote? The consequences of this time are unparalleled. The President has made a mockery of public health and trust in science, referring to getting COVID-19 as a “gift from God” and telling Americans not to fear the virus that’s killed over 210,000 people in this country alone. A Biden-Harris win isn’t going to be easy, but there are more Democrats than Republicans in the country—meaning we have the power to elect who we want. That being said, Republicans are known for being consistent voters, whereas Dems are historically unreliable when it comes to showing up. As young people, the power of who we want our leaders to be is in our hands. Climate change and a post-COVID economy are going to deeply impact our generation, and it is a civic duty that we make our voices heard through our ballots.
One of the most important deciders of the upcoming election will be Pennsylvania, which determined the 2016 election outcome. The state currently holds a 31% chance of being the tipping-point state. Five Thirty-Eight reported that Trump has an 84% chance of winning the election if he wins Pennsylvania, and Biden has a 96% chance if he does the same. Bradley Beychok, president of pro-Democratic group American Bridge, told The Washington Post that they’ve spent millions on supporting Biden and are moving away from fundraising in Michigan and Wisconsin; instead, they’re putting resources into Pennsylvania in the coming weeks. The Post also reported that the Biden campaign and supportive groups have spent nearly $19 million on advertising in Pennsylvania compared to about $10.5 million by Trump in the last two weeks. In recent statistics, Biden is polling higher than Trump in Pennsylvania—but many reporters will be quick to note that the same occurred with Hillary Clinton in 2016 and she still lost the state. It’s crucial that young voters in Pennsylvania research and send their ballots out within the next ten days in order to ensure they’re counted in time. The importance of swing states this year surpasses past elections, as polls are showing closer figures than ever. In Florida, Biden and Trump are tied right now, while Biden is nearly matching or surging Trump’s polling in North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin.
It’s unfortunate that, unlike other countries where voting is compulsory, in the U.S. it’s looked at as a privilege and not an inalienable right across the board. Voter suppression exists for one reason, and that is deeply ingrained fear—of true democracy, sweeping change, and individual power. If your vote wasn’t powerful, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to take it away. The only way to reclaim your role in a system that might not take you into consideration is to vote. If the current system works perfectly fine for you, it’s imperative that you use your vote to make that achievable for everyone. It’s easy to point out that this country was founded on systemic racism, sexism, and inequality. This is undeniably true. But the country was also founded on a notion of freedom that was unheard of prior, and even when we can’t see it on a day-to-day basis it exists and persists. We can find it in our right to free speech and the First Amendment, our ability to disagree with our leaders and politicians, and most importantly in our ballots. Our right to have a say in this country is only applicable when we vote. In unsettling times, I hold onto the belief that hope has power and we can use it to take action. It’s important that we keep We The People at the forefront of the conversation and reclaim the opening words of the Constitution as the ability we all have to make profound change.
Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz for Vice.