With the victory of Joe Biden over Donald Trump, I was astonished at how the voting turnout of the American people greatly increased this election. The evidence can be seen in Joe Biden, who achieved a remarkable feat by garnering the most votes by any U.S. president in history.
This historic achievement brought my mind back to one of the most interesting concepts I studied in university: voting.
Voting is one of the more apparent practices in politics due to its accessibility to anyone. It gives power to the people and holds the candidates accountable for their actions (well…most of the time). But its most important function is it ultimately decides who wins the seats in public office.
In this meticulous decision making of who wins in public office is where the complexities of society shows. By complexities, I mean the several stances that people have on each socio-political issue. This could be an issue like abortion, human rights, LGBT rights, the death penalty, or, one of the most argued issues these past few years, climate change. Each candidate has their stance on issues like these depending wholly or minimally on the party they belong to. The beautiful thing about democracy is that the constituents of these candidates also have their political groups or affiliations. The people affiliate themselves with anywhere from the political spectrum or the newer ideologies, with environmentalism at the forefront. Through the power of media, especially social media, people can express their opinions about their candidates and the policies they advocate, revealing the political ideologies they adhere to.
Even with the overwhelming stances and ideas that dominate the political sphere, little to no change would occur unless voting was involved. If we are talking about a grand change in the political institutions of a state, then political movements and the deafening public opinion can also incite change. However, this essay only focuses on everyday politics.
Voting in the Digital Age
Choosing who to vote for might seem a bit of a hassle to the average citizen because it takes a bit of research. You have to know which candidates are running for your district or city, then find out which political party they belong to. After that, you then have to research what policies or stances they are advocating for. That is the ideal process of research for the average citizen. But in this busy, modern life, most of us do not have enough time to do all of it. We rely on news, posters, and all sorts of advertisements, which is not entirely wrong, but insufficient to make a true vote. Every candidate tries to look prim and proper in their advertisements. But we cannot make a well-informed vote based on those ads because their only purpose is to catch our attention. We must find a better way, a more responsible way to know our candidates.
The time of solely relying on newspapers, radio, or television for candidate information is long gone. It is now superseded by a quicker, more efficient process in this digital age, and all that power is in your gadgets.
If there is an upcoming election, you can access any information about it from the internet. You can research the running candidates, their policies, their history in politics, and more. This transparency of information is what makes voting a little easier. It entices people into the politics of their community (in some way) through the many articles or social media posts that we see when we browse the web.
Seeing other people discuss their opinions on the pertinent issues surrounding the elections and running candidates might spark the average citizen’s curiosity, or it might not. But through media and the internet, they are now aware that there is a bigger world around them, that politics affects their community and their family, and that voting can make a difference.
Voting for higher office like the presidency, senator, governor, or member of parliament, is an altogether different thing. For one, it has more media coverage, which results in more people being aware of the election and candidacy process. In this stage, all candidates are open to scrutiny, criticism, and, worst of all, misinformation due to fake news.
Since the stakes are higher, the people will feel more inclined to research at this level, to know the candidates and the policies they advocate. They will be more active to voice out their opinions and to be more attentive to the events surrounding the election. The media plays a large part in this behavior because, every election season, news about the candidates can be seen everywhere and is pretty much unavoidable.
The reason for this short comparison is to put all the discussion of this essay into perspective. Just think about how our local communities would be better for everyone if the average person treats local elections like how they treat the national elections? People would put more thought into their vote; and more engaged, well-researched voters would put better candidates in office.
Everybody has their reasons for voting. Some vote for change, some for no change. Between those two choices stems the many things that we value as a human being. People who value the environment would most likely vote for a candidate who advocates green policies. The ones who value equal rights would vote for the candidate who supports those ideas; or, better yet, has a record of drafting legislation that revolves around those advocacies. Maybe we value tradition and like things as they are, so we vote for the same politicians we have voted for the last few years. In all these examples, we have people who are from different walks of life, who have different experiences, and, therefore, have different values and belief systems. We see these kinds of people everywhere. We can either agree with their choices or not. But we have to respect the one thing that these people did: vote.
We live in the most transparent age in the history of politics, relatively speaking, since there are still governments around the world that provide the opposite of transparency. But, what I mean is, we can access politics-related information far easier now. We can look up the running candidates, their policies, news about them months or even years ago, their tweets, the accomplishments of their previous office, and so much more.
We can now research more than ever before and cast the most rational vote that reflects our values. It is a beautiful time to be a voter, to be a citizen.