What makes people decide to vote?
That is a question I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since I joined my dad on a business trip to Europe this summer. During our visit to Berlin, I had the pleasure of meeting two very different men who had one thing in common: they both chose not to vote in an important decision that mattered to their native country.
One of the men was born and raised in London until he moved to Israel thirteen years ago. The Brexit vote had just occurred, and though he was still a citizen of Britain, the man from London said that he didn’t vote because he didn’t feel that he should help make such an important decision for a country that he loves but doesn’t currently live in.
The other man is originally from New York but splits his time between the United States and Israel. He shared that he doesn’t plan to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, partly for the same reason that the man from England didn’t feel he should vote: he doesn’t live in New York full time anymore and he doesn’t care much for either of candidates.
Despite the differences between the man from London and the man from New York, they both felt that they shouldn’t contribute to a big decision regarding their homelands by using their privilege to vote.
I am too young to vote in our national elections, but during every presidential election, my school gives us students the opportunity to vote in a mock election. Four years ago, it was the Obama/Romney election and, as usual, my school gave the students an opportunity to vote for who they thought should become the president of the United States. Everyone in the school votes on the same day at different times, and the winner is announced at the end of the day. On the particular day of the mock election, my sister and I both had dentist appointments. When we arrived at school, we were told that both of our classes had already voted. We were given the choice to vote or return to our classes so that we wouldn’t miss any more of our schoolwork. We debated if it was even worth it; after all, we were only two people. We concluded with the thought that the presidential election only comes around every four years, so we were eager to vote. My sister and I both voted for President Obama and returned to our classes.
At the end of that school day, the counts were released and President Obama won by one vote! If my sister and I had gone back to our classes and passed up the opportunity to vote, Mitt Romney would have become the presidential winner of our school. We were astonished by the news and couldn’t believe we had even questioned whether our vote counted or not. I remember this story every time I question whether my voice counts and whether every vote matters.
One other thing this summer reminded me how every voice can truly make a difference. For my summer reading, I was required to read three books, and one of the books I chose to read was I Am Malala. While reading this, I learned that in countries like Pakistan, women are underprivileged and underappreciated. For example, Pakistani woman don’t have the right to vote (and since Pakistan is such a conflict-filled country, it is sometimes difficult for men to be able to get out and vote as well). If all of those women could vote, I’m certain it would make a difference in how they are treated and whether their country could become more free and inclusive for everybody.
After finishing I Am Malala, I strongly realize that the privilege we have in my country is something that many other countries don’t allow. Voting in Pakistan is a struggle, while voting in the United States or England is a privilege open to all of us (when we reach a certain age).
This makes me think back to the two men I met in Berlin and how, even though they have the right to vote, they didn’t feel like it was the place for them to contribute to such a big decision. If you are given the special and, in some countries, rare opportunity to have a say in the future of your birthplace, why not seize it?
I am too young to vote now, but if I could I wouldn’t think twice about it. Some decisions, like who will be the leader of a country or, in the example of England, the very future of a country, are too important to sit out. So here is a request from this 14-year-old girl who wishes she could vote: even if you feel it’s not your place to contribute to a big decision, if you have the right to vote, please take advantage of it. Every decision matters, and every voice counts.