Imagine that as you read this article today, an amazing thing happens. Loud music begins to play, a screen before you flashes brightly, and words appear that say:
“You Now Have The Power To Fix The Economy!” or
“You Now Have The Power To Change How The Government Deals With Hunger!” or
“You Now Have The Power To Decide The Future Of Immigration”
“Wow!” you say to yourself. “Really?”
At first, you probably don’t believe it. You wonder what kind of gimmick this is, or how much money somebody wants you to send in. But, over time, officials come to your house, bodyguards protect you, and a staff tells you they are ready to follow your orders. Reporters ask how you plan to use this new power. Cool, right?
In truth, this already really happened to you. Not exactly like this, but close. What am I talking about? Many years ago, the American founding fathers gave you two major superpowers.
They set up the U.S. government as a representative system, meaning that almost all political power exerted by citizens is funneled through elected officials. At the local level this includes city council members, mayors, sheriffs, etc., and at the state and federal levels it means Representatives, Senators, Governors, Presidents, and the various judges and other officials they appoint.
James Madison taught that this representative model is a powerful way to maintain a democratic society without requiring every citizen to be a full-time politician. So far, so good.
But the founders left two important powers directly to you. These are the powers to vote and to make jury decisions. The fact that these two powers were left to each citizen shows how important they are. The framers didn’t believe that these two powers should be delegated to representatives. They wanted you to have them.
Over two hundred years later, our system still maintains that the people, the regular people, including you, are the best ones to hold and use these two powers.
Sadly, too often in our busy lives we fail to really give these two powers the attention they deserve. As a result, courts usually threaten fines or even jail time to people who might try to skip jury duty.
But there are no such fines or threats when it comes to voting. We can vote, or we can skip it. It’s up to each individual.
Moreover, we can vote without really knowing very much about the candidates or issues on the ballot. How often have you voted and, with your ballot in hand, realized that you have to vote for one of the names listed, or vote “Yes” or “No” to some proposed change in our society, but you don’t have any idea which is the best choice?
Most people have had this experience. Many people go through this almost every time they vote.
There is a better way. Our society needs a lot more people who treat voting like a super power. It really is major, after all. Voting determines who our leaders will be, what policies will be adopted or dumped in the trash heap, and sometimes which laws will be directly implemented.
With that kind of power, imagine how sad it is to treat it like nothing. To just skip the vote, or show up and vote without knowing what you’re doing. You don’t want to be that kind of person. In fact, our world really needs regular people who turn voting into a super-hero service.
Not in a weird way. I’m not suggesting that you dress up like Batman or Black Widow and go to the voting booth. Please don’t. That’s not the kind of super hero we need right now. (Plus, it’s bad for your social life.)
What we do need is a regular person who will do three things, three simple, little things that will make a huge difference:
- Make sure you are registered to vote. If not, get registered. Now. Today. Don’t wait.
- Study the candidates who will be on your ballot. Your state government has a website that lists who’s running for your area, and what other things will be on your ballot. Look them up. Then check them out online. Some of the best places to look are the candidate’s social media sites. Spend some time getting to know these people—after all, they’ll have huge power over you for the years ahead. But right now you have the power! Use it.
- Put the next election on your calendar, and when the day comes, vote! If you’ll be out of town, request an absentee ballot beforehand.
Again, don’t wait. Get working on this today. The future depends on people who take their voting power seriously. In nations like Austria, Sweden and Italy, for example, around 80% of eligible voters turn out to vote. In the United States, in midterm elections the number is a whopping 40%. That’s sad.
Add to this equation the lower number of voters who have actually read up and prepared to vote well, and it becomes even more clear how important your vote is. A key part of freedom is having the super-power to determine the future with our votes, but this power only works if we do something about it.
Not voting, and not preparing to vote wisely, is like Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent deciding to just stay home and do nothing. If you’ve ever watched the news and wondered why it sometimes seems like the Jokers and Lex Luthors have too much influence in the world, remember that 40% number.
We can do better. You can do better, starting right now.