The clock is ticking on this year’s presidential election. If you haven’t decided who you’ll vote for yet, you’ve only got a couple days to figure it out. Of course, as we’ve mentioned, voting is one of our civic responsibilities that tests our critical thinking skills. Decoding complex and media-muddled arguments, evaluating core facts (and lies), and deciding which candidate would do a better job -- all of these tasks demand the ability to think critically.
One challenge faced by voters is that they must be able to carefully evaluate individual candidates and issues, as opposed to blindly voting along party lines. As explained by Danielle Allen, even when the majority of voters actually agree on something across party lines, they can remain “split by strong partisan ideologies.” Their strong sense of duty to one political party can cloud their ability to reason, and make it impossible to find a workable compromise or consensus in the interest of all.
But regardless of where your path of thinking leads you, and which candidates and issues you ultimately decide to support or oppose, there stands one truth that is very clear to those on both sides of the political divide: it is incredibly important to vote.
Some people struggle to see this. In a sea of hundreds of thousands of voters in your city or state, and just one in 300 million voters in the United States, it can be easy to fall prey to the dangerous thinking of “my vote doesn’t really matter.”
That’s likely what voters in Alaska were thinking in 2008, when the congressional election was decided by one single vote. In New Hampshire in 1974, the senate race was won (or lost) by two votes. Even as early as 1839, we see evidence of this “one vote doesn’t matter” line of thinking; in that year, a Massachusetts governor was elected by two votes (Biemolt, 2015).
Clearly, if enough citizens fail to see their responsibility in voting, one non-voter quickly joins with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other non-voters. Collectively, their silence makes a great impact. Not only are those voters not supporting their own interests, but they're making it that much easier for people with opposing viewpoints to make the decision for them.
This is why it’s important to be able to think critically about our civic responsibilities and the importance of voting in general -- not just to think critically about the issues and the candidates. After all, the “my one vote doesn’t matter” logic quickly crumbles when we pause to consider it with a critical brain.
Hopefully by now, you’ll agree with us and with countless other scholars, economists, and world leaders: no matter who or what you want to vote for, you should vote. #EveryoneIn2016
- Allen, Danielle (21 February 2016). The moment of truth: We must stop Trump. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/moment-of-truth-we-must-stop-trump/2016/02/21/0172e788-d8a7-11e5-925f-1d10062cc82d_story.html.
- Biemolt, Alysha (21 August 2015). 10 Facts that Prove Voting is Important. The Borgen Project. Retrieved from http://borgenproject.org/voting-is-important/.
- Gesenhues, Amy (16 August 2016). Google adds new state-by-state voting guide for “how to vote” searches. Search Engine Land. Retrieved from http://searchengineland.com/google-adds-new-state-state-voting-guide-vote-searches-256537.