vote

Three Things to Remember Before Voting This November

With only a few weeks until a very important election in November, our TV’s, neighborhood billboards and social media feeds have started to flood with ads and requests for our votes. I’ve even received a few text messages from various candidates and causes hoping they can count on my support come November 8th.

In light of this and all the talk surrounding the anticipated and encouraged outcomes, I think there a few crucial things to remember when you vote, either in person or by mail in ballot.

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1) There is more than one opinion

Social media, namely sites like Twitter, are hubs for conversations on controversial topics. And with algorithms tracking popular topics and their corresponding responses, people are quick to notice the opinions gaining the most favor—a.k.a favorites and retweets. Depending on who you might follow on Twitter (or other social media sites), your feed might become full of these retweets/reposts, so much so that it might seem as if it is the only available to have. It’s important to remember that this is not the case. Every issue has multiple sides and arguments that favor each, so do your research and pursue these sides. It’s the only way you can properly determine where you stand.

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2) You are allowed to hold any opinion you choose

In doing research on the sides of an argument, it’s important to realize that as much as supporters and opposers would like you to believe, there is not one right opinion. Opinions are based on personal values and circumstances, so what might seem clear cut for one person, might not make any sense to another. Figure out where your values align and base your opinions and ultimate votes on those discoveries. Outside opinions are great for research and understanding but they should not dictate your individual vote.

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3) Vote your own vote

I’ve seen a number of celebrities and famous personalities make a special effort to encourage people to vote this year, which is great. Voting is a privilege, one that is so often taken for granted, and as role models in our society, I think it’s so valuable for them to present voting not only as important, but exciting and cool. I myself have a number of people I look up to that constantly post encouragements to make my voice heard, and it stirs something inside me. But here’s the thing, we need to let their encouragements stop once we get to the poles. We cannot cast ballots based on who we think we should vote for and we should never vote to impress celebrities or to further their opinions. This goes back to #1: figure out your own values, and where you stand on issues, because that is the only way to make your vote count.

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The most important thing to remember this election season is to vote. Don’t make an excuse, don’t be lazy, and don’t throw away your chance to make your voice heard. Your vote matters, your opinion matters, and we are blessed to live in a country that allows both of those to be heard. So go out and be part of something bigger than you. It’s important. Plus, you get a sticker.

The Election & What to do Now

When I woke up this past Tuesday, I had a knot in my stomach. For weeks it had seemed as though Election Day was always just out of sight, but suddenly I was awake in its hours, knowing my country would be different before I went to bed.

I brushed my teeth, ate breakfast, and read through my ballot book again, ensuring I was ready to vote later that afternoon, then I got in my car and went to work, just like any other day.

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I’d seen celebrities and social media personalities alike sharing their voice and reminding everyone how important it was to vote. This is one thing I’ve always admired about election season, for even amongst all the phone calls and mail and lengthy commercials that come with the arrival of that second Tuesday in November, so to do we get an influx of reminders: Reminders that we have the right to vote. Reminders that we all need to stand together. Reminders that we can all be different. Reminders that we are all free to share our voices and that they will be heard.

On Tuesday night, as I sat in my favorite chair, staring at the television screen that glowed red, I again found that knot in my stomach, though it was farther removed from the results than one might think. I nodded my head, walked up the stairs to my room and fell asleep, anxious for what my world would be like in the morning. And when I woke up, it was even more disappointing than I could have imagined.

Venom. That’s the only word I can think of to describe what I saw and heard. Venom in the words spit by person after person and venom injected into those they were aimed at. And while I understood the disappointment, the fear, the hurt, I couldn’t fathom how any of this was helping.

These attacks aimed from American to American, brother to sister, what were they doing to heal the wounds of those who felt wounded? What good had it been to encourage people to vote, if persecution awaited them if that vote wasn’t “correct”? And how, after months of marrying the words of someone who has now become the new President with hate and malice and disgust, how did we seek to redeem those words by using them ourselves on one another?

When the results came through, I saw a lot of people claim our country was divided, now more than ever. And while I think the cracks in our unity shine through during every election season, as tensions are high and opinions are loud, it is not the results that are doing the dividing, it is what we are doing with them. Have we forgotten that we are not the opinions of one man or woman? We have never been the product of the actions of one single person. We have always been and always will be a collection of voices, actions, and opinions that make up one great nation. But if we continue let the fear of the presence of hate nourish the growth of it inside each of us, we risk uniting under the single thing that can destroy us.

So as we take our first few steps in the wake of these results, let us not forget that we are not strangers that need to walk silently and stiffly in avoidance of those who are different than us. For it is our differences that make us strong. It is our differences that make us great. And it is in times like these that we need those differences in order to find balance and unity, compromise and compassion. So no matter who you voted for, take time to find encouragement in the words from both parties, as they both have come forward to ignite hope and offer support, both for one another and our country as a whole, and we would do well to follow their example. For America is already great, but it can be greater. We are strong, but we are stronger together. And if we can find a way to unite, we can do anything.

From Senator Hillary Clinton:

“I still believe in America and I always will….And — and to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

From President-Elect Donald Trump:

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division…To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

And from President Barack Obama:

“We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first. We’re Americans first. We’re patriots first.”