While most Americans were pulling their hair out or grinning while watching the last 3% of the nation’s poll results trickle in on Wednesday morning, I was watching a different set of data. Namely, the voter turnout for the 2016 election. There is a wonderful google sheet of the data for each state made by electproject.org, or rather there was a wonderful google sheet. The site crashed Wednesday evening with more pageviews than a google site can handle. Here is a direct link to the google sheet if you’re curious and the website is still down.
Social media exploded with posts of outrage at the results of the election itself and I’m sure that the question has crossed many people’s minds of “how could this happen?” Well, I’ll tell you how: Someone didn’t vote. Perhaps more accurately, 102 million someones didn’t vote, or 44.4% of the eligible voting population.
Now, this may sound bad, and it most certainly is, but this was a good year for voting turnout. In fact, the nationwide turnout was up by 4.7% from previous years. However, It is unacceptable that this is considered a ‘good’ turnout.
If you voted for someone in this election, thank you. You used your rights well. If you did not vote and are of voting age, or were among the 15,000 that wrote ‘Harambe’, you have no right to complain about the results of the election. That right was thrown away with all the others that are sacrificed when you refuse to use your democratic power.
NH had the best voter turnout in the country, but was still only 68.7%. On election day Caroline Wilson (‘17) went around the UNH campus for NextGen Climate to convince people to get out and vote. There was no candidate endorsed, only the prospect of voting. Wilson had fairly good reception, mostly smiles and words of later voting, but she was on a college campus, a place where voting is encouraged.
Some, however, were opposed to the idea of voting. “We tried to convince them, asking them to do their civic duty and all that jazz about democracy,” said Wilson. “But the small group of people who said they weren’t going to vote had made their minds up already.”
This election was one where many were fed up with both major candidates. That does not justify not voting. Even if one is in favor of a candidate very slightly over another, the citizen still ought to cast a ballot.
Do not consciously decide to not vote. Hopefully, Donald Trump will be a catalyst for change, causing those who did not vote to realize that they contributed just as much as the ‘Silent Majority’ did to the election of Trump. In fact, if every eligible voter cast a ballot, the ‘Silent Majority’ might have not been the ‘majority’ at all.
I missed this election by nine days. You can bet that I would have voted, had I been born the seventh of November. You have power in your government. Use it. If you did not vote in this election, all is not lost. There is ample opportunity to become involved in our democracy. Write to your state representative, vote in state elections, and make sure that the people representing you in the government represent you. Above all, care about America’s political climate. We have one of the greatest rights in the world, and it must not be taken for granted.
Written by George Philbrick