Don't Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good: VOTE

Fiona Waters

August 30, 2020

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Voting for a president this November can feel like choosing between the "lesser of two evils'' rather than making an impactful statement. Until ranked-choice voting gains popularity, the "winner-takes-all" voting system used in our democratic republic also perpetuates this cycle. But, as Jarrett Hill, political journalist and podcast host puts it, "When this is all over, we're going to end up with either Joe Biden or Donald Trump as president."

That reality can be discouraging to admit, especially if you morally and actively support a system with multiple parties. Since the founding of the U.S., voters seeking to change the system have been told, "This election is too important for you to use it as a statement," and "Now is not the time." Today people are still singing the same refrains. I'm not sure if I agree with them or not. Sometimes the best candidate wins, and they still enact terrible legislation. So, does my vote even matter?

In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost to Donald Trump in the Electoral College. That discrepancy led to the idea of abolishing the Electoral College, which was created with racist intentions, becoming mainstream once again. Maybe the person you wanted to win didn't win, but your vote still sends a message. The election also brought to light some of the major issues with the voting process in America: long lines, outdated machines, confusing voter restrictions, and more.

Election statistics also show that who voted and who didn't vote matters. "Democrats are losing votes and ... the numbers [Republicans] are getting are holding pretty consistent," explains David Becker, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Election and Innovation and Research. To me, this only further indicates that Trump won, and could win again, based on consolidation of power and numbers, and not on ideology.

You could make the argument that uniting the Democratic party to vote for Biden is exactly the same thing that Trump is doing to win elections. However, I am a believer of the paradox of tolerance. Uniting a party against Trump is not even comparable to uniting a party against Biden. If you need a reminder, here's a list of the endless amount of deregulation for the environment, emergency funds, education, civil rights, and more that the Trump administration has imposed. You could also just take a look around you: Trump's mismanagement of COVID, record unemployment, human rights violations, failure to respond proactively to police brutality, and overall media distraction techniques.

In her podcast episode "Protests and the Pandemic with Michele Norris," Michelle Obama reminds listeners, "Do not listen to this propaganda about your vote not counting. [It's something] people are saying with clear intent on trying to suppress the vote." If your vote wasn't important, political campaigns wouldn't be trying to empower (or suppress) it by any means possible. The polling location in Jefferson County, Kentucky, wouldn't be closing its doors early if those in power didn't think your vote could make a difference. Now is not the time to be discouraged. Now is the time to take action.

Activist Hajer Sharief states it best: "By not participating in [politics], you're literally allowing other people to decide on what you can eat, where, if you can have access to healthcare, free education, how much tax you pay ... whether your race and ethnicity is enough to consider you a criminal or if your religion and nationality is enough to put you on a terrorist list." The question for this election cycle is: Do you want Donald Trump and Mike Pence making those decisions, or Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?

It's not a difficult question for me to answer. In the same episode of the Michelle Obama podcast, Michele Norris says in regards to elections, "Don't reach for normal. Reach for better." I'll admit that I'm just reaching for normal in this election. This year, though, normal is better. Writer Maggie Tokuda-Hall (yes, in a Twitter post) makes a powerful point. There's a difference between a "set of imperfect candidates and literal fascism," and it's not a difference of opinion. Regardless of whether or not you would be friends with Trump or Biden, accusing them of being the same person, of having the same morals, is a false equivalency.

I don't want to parrot the phrase that this election is important. All elections are important. I do want to talk about that episode in season 13 of American Idol when Malaya Watson was voted off of the show, because everyone figured she would be voted for, so they didn't vote for her. This seems relevant for some reason.

I also want to encourage you to get involved in politics outside of elections. "Ordinary people feel that in order to participate in politics, they need to be outspoken activists," Sharief explains, "and that is not true." Elections are just one part of the political system. There are also demonstrations, of course, but there is also sending an email to your local representative, staying informed about issues that affect you, and having those sometimes difficult discussions with family.

This election puts many voters in an awkward position. Biden has a turbulent political and social history that can make him hard to endorse. "Hard to endorse," however, will never equate to committing flagrant human rights violations against hundreds of thousands of people. As vice president from 2008-2012, the U.S. watched Biden make better decisions than he did in the 1990s. That trend should only continue if he becomes our president.

In this year's election, there are a few important steps to making sure your vote gets counted. First, make sure you're registered to vote, which you can do so here.

Second, vote early. The advised deadline for sending a mail-in ballot is October 27. What are you still doing reading this article? You should be requesting a mail-in ballot right now! Visit to learn about mail-in voting in your state.

Third, if you really want to ensure your vote is counted, deliver your completed ballot to a secure drop-off location yourself. This might be a ballot box or election official's office - the location varies by jurisdiction. It only takes a few seconds to drop off your ballot.

Politics are a notoriously touchy subject, but plenty of online guides offer advice on how to discuss politics constructively. You might have the kinds of friends or family who are comfortable having a frank discussion, and the only thing stopping you was bringing up the topic. For the people who can't say the "P" word without ruining dinner, though, reminding individuals to vote and informing them of the process this year will also suffice. Vote early, transport your ballot yourself if possible, and think about the steps you can take to enact positive change outside of elections.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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