by Jessica Chang

I’m a debater, which means I like facts, numbers, and evidence. But don’t worry—there won’t be any statistics in this piece. I want to talk about our Constitutional right to vote, and you don’t need facts or evidence to talk about our most basic right.

First, I understand if you don’t feel like it—it feels complicated, exhausting, and pointless. It’s a wildly imperfect system. But here are some reasons to vote:

  • Your vote matters. Voter suppression exists because governments are scared of the power a single vote contains.
  • It directly impacts your daily life.
  • You get a fun sticker.
  • But more importantly, it impacts everyone else.

Let’s elaborate on that last point. Your vote gets to choose policies that will affect the lives of marginalized and discriminated people everywhere. I can’t vote—neither can an undocumented immigrant living in California, or a convicted felon in Florida, or an immuno-compromised elderly patient in a district without enough poll booths. But we are affected by your choice. If you believe in anything—civil rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, minority rights—you have a duty to vote. If you are against injustice, whether you are Republican or Democrat or in between, you have a duty to vote. I’m not telling you how to vote. Vote for what you believe in.

I don’t intend to make anyone feel guilty—I only want to build people up. But I’ve been fighting against racism, homophobia, and sexism my whole life, and I am so tired of nothing changing. So are millions of other unable to use their voice. We need you to speak up for us.

Not voting is selfish. Your choice affects all of us. And not voting is a vote. It’s a vote for the status quo and a vote for continued injustice.

And, finally, yes. I know that the choices we have this year are not great. Both candidates may not “meet your standards.” And that is an indication we need long-term change in the way we hold elections and a restructuring of a party system. But in the immediate short-term, you still need to vote. Prioritize a chance to help those in your community over your moral high horse. Unless you’re planning to start a revolution, there’s not much you can do to change the system except vote. There’s a best candidate for everyone, although it depends who that is from person to person. I’ve heard people say that both candidates are clowns. I just have one question:

One of those clowns has a chainsaw. The other one doesn’t. Which one would you prefer?

I think a lot about a quote by James Baldwin, American activist and writer: “Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it.” People have been jailed, attacked, and killed for the right to vote. 

It seems a waste to disregard their sacrifices.

Register to vote here:

The deadline to register is Monday, October 5, 2020.

The deadline to request a ballot by mail must be received by Saturday, October 31, 2020.

**If you’re not old enough or otherwise unable to vote, encourage people who can, volunteer at polling booths, and educate yourself and others on the voting laws in your state.