The vital importance of exercising your right to vote

Though Illinois and the New Trier area are expected to vote overwhelmingly blue, it’s misguided to think that your vote doesn’t matter

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AP Photo/Matt Slocum

“I voted” stickers are seen at a satellite election office in Philadelphia.

The Democratic Party dominates Illinois politics. Both U.S. Senators are Democrats, and Democrats hold thirteen of eighteen congressional seats. On the state level, Democrats control a so-called government trifecta, with majorities in both chambers of the state legislature and Democrat J.B. Pritzker as Governor. 

In the New Trier area, politics appear just as lopsided in favor of Democrats. Incumbent Democratic Representatives Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) and Brad Schneider (IL-10), as well as Illinois House of Representatives members Bob Morgan and Robyn Gabel, appear likely to win reelection this November. 

In light of this state and local Democratic dominance, many voters in the New Trier district may wonder, why vote at all? It is an entirely legitimate question. Is there anything wrong with not casting a ballot if your vote will not change the results one bit? 

I believe that everyone eligible to vote should cast a ballot. One vote, even in a politically uniform area like ours, holds a lot more power than it may seem.. 

Remember, it was not too long ago that many people could not vote. In the time of the founding fathers, only property-owning white men enjoyed the right to vote. All non-felon adult citizens only obtained voting rights because of more than two hundred years of hard work by those seeking equality and justice for all.

By voting, American citizens keep our democratic tradition alive and honor this history. 

Voting, even if elections may not look to be close, also matters because it is a crucial outlet for expressing your opinion on how best to organize society. In casting a ballot, we add our voice to the interchange of ideas on how best to organize society. 

History shows that sometimes voters do not follow an expected pattern and surprise everyone. In the 2016 presidential election, for example, now President Trump infamously outperformed the polls in the crucial Midwestern states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Surprises in elections happen because people believe it when others say their vote doesn’t count. 

The importance of actually turning out to vote applies especially to young voters (including all New Trier students who turn 18 before November 3rd). In 2016, 90% of voters aged 18-29 expressed an interest in voting, yet only 46% ultimately voted. 

Because young people vote at a much lower rate than older people, our causes often receive less attention from elected officials. By voting at higher rates in November, young voters could send a strong message to elected officials that their voices matter. 

If any of these more aspirational reasons to vote do not resonate with you, there is also a practical reason to vote. While the presidential election and all the most prominent legislative elections may not be close in the New Trier area this year, several other votes on the ballot will be tighter and matter immensely. 

One such vote is the Illinois Allow for Graduated Income Tax Amendment (2020), which would adjust our state’s tax income structure to make higher-income individuals pay more than individuals who earn less money. 

In the past few months, you may have seen ads on this highly contentious and important issue. By voting, you can have your say on the matter.

And other down-ballot races also matter a great deal. For instance, often-ignored judicial elections play a crucial role in determining how the law is applied and interpreted. 

So, how can a person vote in Illinois? Register to vote by heading to https://ova.elections.il.gov/. Then, show up to a polling place in-person on November 3rd, find an early voting location, or request a mail-in ballot. More information on how to vote is available at https://howto.vote/vote/en/il.html

Then, educate yourself on the elections. Websites such as Ballotopedia.com or Votesmart.org can be indispensable tools in learning more about the positions of candidates and parties, particularly in down-ballot races.

Even if you are too young to vote, it is still imperative to be informed. Talk with others about the elections, encourage adults in your life to vote, and 

Just because Democrats dominate politics in Illinois and the New Trier area, that does not mean you should not pay attention to these issues, and if you are old enough, vote. That is a duty and a privilege.