Four reasons your vote is important - Rob Robinson
For better or for worse, Alabama lies outside the epicenter of the presidential campaign, its nine electoral votes comfortably categorized as “likely Republican.” Given this, there may be a tendency among Alabamians of both parties to assume that “my vote doesn’t matter,” and tune out from the election. I would like to suggest here, however, that political engagement—even in a “safe” state—can pay lifelong dividends, and that voting is important for the individual even when a race is noncompetitive. Consider the following...
The 2012 presidential campaign is now in full swing. The candidates crisscross the nation, hoping to galvanize their supporters and score points on the opposition, while their campaigns furiously sling advertisements and press releases in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the information war.
For better or for worse, Alabama lies outside the epicenter of the presidential campaign, its nine electoral votes comfortably categorized as “likely Republican.” Given this, there may be a tendency among Alabamians of both parties to assume that “my vote doesn’t matter,” and tune out from the election. I would like to suggest here, however, that political engagement—even in a “safe” state—can pay lifelong dividends, and that voting is important for the individual even when a race is noncompetitive. Consider the following:
Voting is a gateway drug to future political activity. All journeys start with a single step, and a lifetime of confidence and engagement as a citizen of this country begins with voting. Individuals who have voted in prior elections are more likely to vote again, more likely to contact their member of Congress, more likely to seek out political information, more likely to join an interest group or political organization, and more likely to feel like their opinion matters. In other words, the simple act of voting increases the probability of future political engagement.
Political engagement correlates with greater trust and political knowledge. While the causality is uncertain, research has shown a virtuous circle between voting, feeling like you can make a difference, and the willingness to learn more about politics. So even if your vote may not matter in a particular election, voting may be good for you, the individual.
You can make a difference with the people in your life. Do you want your children to be good citizens, knowledgeable and involved? Parental transmission is perhaps the strongest socializing factor of political beliefs and involvement: if you want your children to care about the country and share your values, you will need to model the behavior you want to see in them and be prepared to talk about politics.
Voting and political engagement can also have a positive effect on individuals outside of your family, as political scientists have found that asking a friend or neighbor to vote significantly increases the likelihood that they will do so. If you become more knowledgeable and involved, you can have a positive effect on people within your own social network.
You may not always live in a safe state. Trends that seem “permanent” in the short term can fly apart in the long run. Forty years ago, the South was “always” part of the Democratic Party, while the west-coast and northeastern regions were more reliably Republican. Things change, and Alabama might one day be relevant in presidential elections. Similarly, you might find yourself following your job or family to a state with more competitive elections. Involvement now will better prepare you if you are thrust into politically competitive environment.
Over the coming weeks, UAB will provide a number of opportunities to become more involved and knowledgeable in the 2012 election. I will reference two here. First, register to vote—if you haven’t already—by getting voter registration cards from the Hill University Center (or any public library). Voter registration is quick and painless, but you must register by October 26, 2012 in order to vote in this year’s election. If you have questions about voting in Alabama, go to http://alabamavotes.gov/FAQ.aspx?m=Voters for more information.