Editorial: Know the importance of voting

In the news world, facts are necessary for quality material. One way to get facts is by looking at numbers. So here are a few numbers for you: 26,070 out of 110,855, or 23.52, percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2009 general election for local offices in Shawnee County. Here are some more numbers: 1,870 and 1,869 were the vote counts in the Seventh District Topeka City Council race in 2009. Bob Archer beat Lisa Stubbs to become a city council member by a single vote. A single vote.

Elections are the cornerstone of democracy. The United States, however, is not a true democracy. The United States is a republic, meaning that citizens place representatives in power to act on their behalf when making decisions. Now, whether these representatives actually do act on the behalf of their constituents is another topic for another time but, generally speaking, we are still a republic. When you vote for a house member or a senator, you are voting for someone to represent you and your district.

So, keeping this in mind, know that if you want your voice to be heard, you must vote. If you feel that the government needs to place more restrictions or less restrictions on guns in this country, you have the power to elect people to speak on your behalf on that issue. If you believe that we need some kind of reform on immigration laws in this country, you have the power to change that by voting. Any issue, topic and nearly any law in this country has the ability to change when people vote.

The problem, however, is that many people don’t vote. We hear a lot about low turnouts in non-presidential elections, this is absolutely true. While Kansas, in recent years, has seen higher numbers than the national average, the nationwide turnout in the 2014 midterm election was 38.5 percent, and in the 2016 election, which had a presidential race, was 56 percent.

When looking at young voters, the numbers are even worse. According to census data, in the 2014 midterm election, 15.9 percent of 18-24 year olds and 28.3 percent of 25-44 year olds voted. However, these two groups make up almost 45 percent of the entire population of eligible voters. If every voter in those two age groups voted in the next election, that 45 percent could make a huge difference. Yet, when it came time in November of that year, an overwhelming majority of these young voters decided to stay home.

These numbers might seem depressing, but there is hope. Voting numbers grew, and in the case of the age groups mentioned before, the grew significantly in the 2016 presidential election. There also seems to be a fire in people’s hearts this year. People seem ready for this upcoming midterm election. Young people particularly, fueled by leaders their own age, seem ready to be a part of the election process. We saw hundreds of thousands of young people across the nation join in the March for Our Lives on March 28 of this year. While many of these people are not old enough to vote in this election, their parents are. All across the country at these marches, people grew adamant that our actions manifest in more than just words. Here in Topeka, on the grounds of the Kansas State Capitol, there was also a voter registration tent and people in the crowd leading others to that tent.

Young people are the future of this country. If you want the future of America to look different than it does now, you have to make the difference now. Your voice matters, and you need to make sure it is heard. If you’re not registered to vote, get registered. The registration deadline or the upcoming election is Oct. 16. It is as simple as filling out a form online or even walking to the top floor of Memorial Union and filling out a form there. Make sure to not only register to vote, but to actually go do it. You can find your polling place by going online to the secretary of state’s website. The election is Nov. 6.

Over 75 percent of the voting population in Shawnee County didn’t cast a ballot in the general election in 2009. How would this election change if that number had been reduced? Would the Seventh District have a different council member? We can’t know for sure, but one thing is certain: Don’t let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t matter. A single vote can change the outcome of any election.