Your Voice Matters
Your Voice Matters
You can use your voice to uplift and support the creation of a more equitable society.
Sometimes, however, when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, or your vision of hope begins to dim, it can feel like your individual voice (or vote) doesn’t matter.
Maybe you don’t feel represented by the candidates vying for your vote. Maybe you feel unsafe, or that no one in politics can be trusted. Maybe you simply can’t hear your own voice of certainty through the omnipresent noise and rhetoric of talking heads and Twitter feeds.
In this blog we will talk about why you or your loved ones might feel like your/their voice doesn’t matter -- (have you heard of psychological voter suppression?)
We will also provide resources for creating a voting plan, including how (and why) to do research on down-ticket races. Thankfully, our votes determine more than just who will be the next president of the United States. And though there may not be a single candidate who fully embodies your vision for a more equitable future, remember that the trees around you were once tiny seeds. Change sometimes starts small and moves imperfectly, but that means that each day, each step, each vote matters.
Voting, dear, extraordinary human, is an act of self-care, community-care, and planet-care.
Do you feel like your voice doesn't matter?
A recent study released by the American Psychological Association showed that 79% of Gen Z adults said “the future of our nation is a significant source of stress in their life”, but only 64% said they intended to vote in the 2020 election.
Take that in, without judgement.
What might be going on here? Why might so many brilliant, politically aware and engaged young people feel uninspired (or unsafe) to vote?
Have you ever heard of psychological voter suppression?
Before the 2016 election, Psychology Today released a fascinating article by Ravi Chandra, M.D. F.A.P.A., about psychological voter suppression tactics. Psychological voter suppression is defined as a cognitive and/or emotional “poll tax” which makes it easier to stay home or otherwise avoid the task of making a choice that is, for some reason, hard to swallow. Psychological voter suppression saps the motivation of citizens to register or go to the polls on election day. Some candidates may use psychological tactics to dissuade or even intimidate their opposition from going to the polls, as well as fire up their base.
It turns out, feeling like your vote doesn’t matter could be the result of misinformation and intentional discouragement. Isn’t that sneaky?
And even if discouragement is not intentional, withdrawal can be a natural response to anxiety, and many of us are feeling anxiety around the upcoming election (for a deeper look at election-related anxiety and tools for working with it, check out our blog post breathe through it).
It’s easy to feel like your voice will not make a difference, but voting is one of the most important ways you can show up for both yourself and your community. Using your voices is a form of self-care, whether we’re setting an important boundary with a loved one or standing up for the future of our country.
Create a voting plan.
Still, sometimes the act of voting and the logistics involved can feel overwhelming. When we are feeling anxious, it is important to avoid procrastination. To help support you, we compiled a step-by-step guide below. By creating a plan and taking a few pre-election day steps, you can avoid unnecessary election stress; Sometimes self-care looks like checking that you know where your polling station is, before you realize that you’re lost!
Action steps for voting:
- First, check that you are registered to vote. This website can confirm in less than a minute that you are registered to vote. If you are not, or if your name was accidentally removed (which happens), do not despair. In some states (like North Carolina) you are still able to register to vote in-person at any early voting site (but NOT on election day). This process is known as same-day registration. Check out the in-person deadlines for voter registration in your state here.
COVID, crashing the party. If you are registered to vote, take a look at this website. Many dates and deadlines may be rescheduled this year due to the pandemic, so this is a helpful site to check before planning your vote. Or check out COVID-19 voting info.
- Mailing in a ballot, early voting, or voting on election day? Determine how you are going to vote.
- Absentee: It’s down to the wire, but if you are registered out of state (you’re a student, for instance), you might still be able to submit a request to have a mail-in ballot sent to you. This awesome reference chart shows deadlines for absentee voting in all 50 states, including when and how to submit a mail-in ballot request and the deadline for returning your completed ballot.
- Vote-by-Mail: Yes, it is called a vote-by-mail ballot, but given that the election is a few days away, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you drop off your ballot in person. Remember, most of the 50 states require that your ballot be received by Election Day (Nov. 3) for it to count. Check out this website for drop-off locations near you.
- Early-voting in person: To learn more about early voting in your state, visit this website. Every state’s regulations are different, so it’s important to look into how your state manages early voting. Early in-person voting can be a great option, and many states have extended early in-person voting to accommodate COVID concerns. Before you go, check out the suggestions below (ie: take some time to research your vote and polling place) then mask up, do your breathing or affirmations, and know that you’ve got this.
- Voting on election day: Similar. Set yourself up for a low-stress experience by doing your research ahead of time. Then mask up, do your breathing or affirmations, and know that you’ve got this.
- Do I need to bring identification? Visit this website to check which kind of identification you should bring with you to vote: a photo ID versus a non-photo ID. Some states require them, some do not.
Check out a sample ballot. Most counties will publish a sample (blank) copy of the actual ballot you will use to vote. To take a look at the ballot ahead of time, simply google the county that you are registered to vote in and sample ballot.
- Where to (physically) go? Whether you are going to early-vote, drop off a vote-by-mail ballot, or vote in person on election day, make sure you know where to go. Even if you are a voting pro, it’s always good to check that your polling site hasn’t been changed. You can find your polling location and hours here (pro-tip: this site also lists locations for early voting, which might be different from your normal polling place).
While the process of registering to vote and voting can seem overwhelming if you’re doing it for the first time, it doesn’t have to be! Follow the steps above to help guide you through and to help you find the websites and information you need to successfully register and vote.
Researching how you want to vote is an act of self-care, community care, and planet care.
By voting, you are choosing to be present for both yourself, your community, and this planet. Voting for local, down-ticket races can make a much bigger difference than you might think. It is important to take some time to look into local races to determine which candidate best represents your voice. You can check out how candidates have voted on issues in the past, or see what values they promote through their proposed policies. This step may take a little time, but remember that the more local the race, the more immediate the impact in your community. Not every person in your community will have the chance to vote in this year’s election, but their lives may still be deeply impacted by the results. Enjoy the self-care practice of using your voice and vote to take a stand for the future you believe in.
Here are two nonpartisan sites that can help you research candidates down-ticket.
Ballotpedia: Allows you to look at candidates relevant to your zip code.
Best Colleges Student Voting Guide: BestColleges partnered with VoteAmerica to identify major issues that affect students.
Your voice, choices and preferences for the future matter, and having the privilege to vote allows you to contribute to the communities and country you live in. Thank you for showing up— for yourself and for this community.
And remember, social change doesn’t end at the election. If elected officials are more like gardeners for the seeds, then our voices, our choices, our actions become the soil, the rain, and the sun.
Your voice matters.