“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Although more than a century has passed since then-President Abraham Lincoln famously uttered these words, they still hold true in today’s world. By simply checking a box or clicking a button, a single vote can do something instantly that would take any amount of ammunition years to accomplish—defending and upholding the blessings of liberty. The voting process is one of the sacred pillars of our Founding Fathers’ cherished beliefs, which have supported our nation through peace and war. Democracy has stood the test of time while other types of government have come and gone, and will continue to do so as long as we continue to vote.
As the birthplace of modern democracy, America prides itself in setting the benchmark and leading the international community in voting rights. So why is it that in recent elections, just a little more than half the population is turning up, even though the fate of their country rests in these voters’ hands? One reason eligible voters don’t show up at the polls may be because they believe their vote alone won’t affect the outcome of the election. While that might be true to some extent, it is no excuse to opt out of the grand tradition of representative democracy. Voting is like watching a sports match from home: you know your favorite player can’t hear you, and that you have next to no effect on the game, but you still cheer your team on as loudly as you can. You are conveying your loyalty to your team, just like how you would convey your patriotism for your country by casting a vote. Besides, if everyone started to think like that, if everyone started to suppress their unique voices and opinions and left their civic responsibilities up to the next person, we would start to ask ourselves: is this really a democracy? Is this really what our country deserves?
I like to think of the United States as a large company, and every vote, no matter which party it’s for, is an investment in its future. As equal shareholders of our great nation, we can work together to make our nation a better place by bringing us closer to our neighbors and our society. In order to understand the positive impact voting really has, you have to perceive it as a reciprocal relationship. Growing up, we've been told that voting is a gift. But what most people don’t know is that it's not just a gift that's given to us, it's also a gift we give to our government. Not only does it affect our government, but also the people who participate in it. Studies show that voters are more likely to be involved in social events such as community service and reaching out to their local representative. One effortless vote is all it takes to start an interactive relationship with everyone and everything around you.
When you put on an “I Voted” sticker on Election Day, you’re not just showing that you voted for your favorite candidate. In a way, you are also announcing your pride and support for America. By voting, we assure that America remains in safe, capable hands without blindly following the government. Your friends, your family, and the very democracy of America are all counting on you to be a role model and lead our nation to a common future backed by the majority. Just imagine the things we could accomplish as a nation if all our citizens voted! Together we can take bigger steps towards cleaning up the environment, educating our children and taking care of senior citizens. Together, we can put an end to the horrors of poverty, crime, and unemployment. So what are you waiting for? Find the time, spread the word, and make your vote count.
Yash Patel is 9th grader at South County High School in Lorton.