Low voter turnout rates are an issue America has been facing for years, specifically among the minority population. Minority citizens consistently have had a comparatively low registered voter populations, more specifically in midterm elections (though presidential elections do not typically get much participation either.) In contrast, even of the minority citizens who are registered, many of them do not typically go to the polls. It seems among eligible Americans who are both registered and not registered to vote, minority citizens are the majority of non-voters.
Why do minority groups in America have extremely low voter turnout rates compared to their counterparts? Why do so many American minorities believe their participation in choosing a representative does not matter? These are important issues that must be given more consideration.
A possible explanation seems to lie in the fact that since minorities in America feel unheard, they become unmotivated and lose hope in the political process, resulting in them completely disengaging and not participating in the political process. However, this mindset not only further perpetuates the low voter turnout problem, but it causes minorities’ needs to be neglected by their own government, never getting their issues resolved by their elected representatives whose job it is to help their constituents.
The historic discrimination against people of color in the voting institution has left minorities uninspired and unmotivated to participate in the political process. The way to fight back the historic discrimination against people of color is not to disenfranchise yourself. The solution is to vote in larger masses, so that minority voices are heard throughout the country. Minority voices deserve to be heard and given more consideration by our elected representatives. The lack of voter participation within minority communities makes it difficult to move towards a more diverse and inclusive government. However, the widespread participation of minorities could potentially create a more inclusive government designed to serve everybody. This would not happen overnight, however. The first step toward this ideal is demanding for your needs to heard by voting.
Those who do not participate during elections are less likely to have their political needs satisfied. Naturally, since the majority of minorities do not vote, politicians do not have to pander to their needs to get elected. Statistics show that, on average, politicians focus on the needs of the 40% of Americans who typically vote in elections, not really giving much attention to those who do not vote. By going to the polls in records numbers, minorities could alert politicians to the fact that their voices matter and also deserve to be heard. While it is easy to become cynical about voting, it is also important to note that, as Americans, we are lucky to be given the opportunity to choose our own representatives. We have the power to change our government peacefully, through voting.
In past elections, those who were not registered to vote or were less likely to vote were demographically different from most voters. Typically, those who choose not to vote are younger, more racially diverse, ethnically diverse, less affluent, and less educated. These demographics have valuable points of view that must be voiced so that our government will better serve the American people. It has been proven time and time again that people usually vote for candidates with whom they identify the most. This is why Barack Obama elicited a high voter turnout rate, especially among the youth and minorities. He was a relatable candidate, who gave the youth and minorities hope for change. While there is not always a candidate as exciting as the first African American president of the United States, voting for candidates who will help further your ideals, however small, can be equally effective.
By not voting, minorities are perpetuating a lack of representation in government. A possible explanation as to why these demographics choose not to vote is that there are long wait lines which take away from valuable work time and strict ID laws that push minorities to lack motivation in going to the polls. Again, as a result, our diverse population is not represented in our government.
Additionally, a PollResearch Center report shows that voter turnout regularly drops in midterm elections and has done so like clockwork since the 1840s. In 2008, for example, 57.1% of the voting-age population casted ballots, the highest level in four decades, when Barack Obama became the first African American elected president. However, two years later, in 2010, only 36.9% voted in midterm elections which put the House back in Republican hands. For Obama’s re-election in 2012, voter turnout went back up to 53.7%. Midterm elections appear less exciting and less important to the public; however, this mentality is why the president’s party almost always loses seats at midterm elections. Although midterm elections seem less glamorous and exciting, they do play a big role in how effectively the rest of each presidential term will proceed, or even how chaotically the president’s term will proceed. This is not to say, however, that minorities must vote for a specific party over another, but rather that they must exercise their right to vote, for whomever they deem fit, in fulfilling their needs within their government.
It is especially important to be an informed and active voter as a minority citizen with children. If you have children, it is important to note that the education system is essentially segregated in many cities and suburbs. We can argue that children of color are not given the same opportunities, education, or training materials as white children who live in richer suburban school districts or are enrolled in private schooling. Elected officials need to spend more time and resources on helping mitigate this issue that poorer communities battle with their education systems. The education system can effectively be changed by voting for candidates who are dedicated in creating an equal environment for our children no matter to which gender, race, or economic background they belong. However, this will not change unless minorities, especially those in less affluent areas, get to the polls and elect officials who are dedicated to serving their needs.
In addition to wanting equal educational opportunities for their children, minorities are much more likely to be arrested and serve longer sentences than their white counterparts. Once incarcerated, these citizens will no longer have the opportunity to vote. This silences minority voices even more. Again, voting for candidates who are committed to changing this disparity in our justice system would eventually start moving the political system towards the right direction. We could strive to use our voting rights to slowly move away from the discrimination and disenfranchisement of so many minority citizens. Minorities have a voice that deserves to be heard. The actions of politicians affect minority lives every day, and minority citizens should have a say in which politicians affect them daily.
In conclusion, minority citizens should vote, even though they feel unmotivated in doing so, because that is the only way our elected officials will know how to best serve them. While children’s education and incarceration rates of minorities are only two of many problems facing minorities in America today, those are examples of why minorities should make their ways to the polls on election day. Minorities’ decisions to vote should not change based on whether the upcoming election is a presidential or midterm election. Both of these elections are opportunities to have our voices heard, as American citizens, and tell our congressmen and women how to best serve us. We have the power to change what we do not like and that power starts with voting.