Editor’s note: Social studies teacher Andy Johnson assigned students with an essay topic—Why participating in the election process is important. Andy sent a sampling of the students’ commentary to the Press to publish in the wake of the 2022 election. Look for several more essays in upcoming editions of the Pelican Rapids Press. 

The Importance of Voting

By Hannah Fossen
Pelican Rapids High School

What is voting? Voting is expressing your political opinions in a way that will be heard. This form of expression affects the candidates, the people voting, and even those who aren’t able to vote. Voting was brought up and tweaked over the years, it’s a great way to express your political views in a private environment, and without voting our country would fall into complete government control. Whether you’re the voter, the candidate or you don’t fall into either of those categories, voting has a major impact on everyone’s lives, it is a necessity to continue to build a citizen-built government, and a more unified country. 

The history of voting is a long and complicated story. Not everyone has always had the right to vote, but over the years amendments have been made to allow everyone as a U.S. citizen to vote. According to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, “Challenges to voting rights in this country, like the ones we’ve seen recently, are hardly a 21st-century invention. Entrenched groups have long tried to keep the vote out of the hands of the less powerful. Indeed, America began its great democratic experiment in the late 1700s by granting the right to vote to a narrow subset of society — white male landowners. Even as barriers to voting began receding in the ensuing decades, many Southern states erected new ones, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, aimed at keeping the vote out of the hands of African American men” (Carnegie Corporation of New York). At this same time, women and anyone other than white males aged 21 years or older were forbidden to vote. As time went on however, the laws banning these citizens from voting were taken out by amendments, making the right to vote accessible to all above the age of 18. 

Since voting has become available to all citizens, more and more people have been able to express their political opinions. Voting is a great way to express your thoughts without fear of others’ judgment or rebuttal. Without voting it would be very difficult for people to voice their political views due to politics being a touchy subject in today’s society. Some people think their vote won’t be heard, however, National Geographic states, “if your vote joins enough others in your voting district or county, your vote undoubtedly matters when it comes to electoral results” (National Geographic Society). In other words, every vote counts, especially if one candidate wins by one vote, or in case, there’s a tie. 

Without this way of expression, our country would be under complete control of the government or even a single dictator. Some countries will go as far as to punish those who voice their political opinions if they go against those of the government or leader. Voting is a way for people to choose who is going to represent them. Without the people’s vote, the U.S. might return to the system of having heirs be the next in line to power, as they did around 3000 B.C. Even if we didn’t return to the way of kings and queens, the government might be the ones to choose who’s next in line. This would mean the United States would have a leader based solely on the opinions of government officials, with no regard to the wants and needs of the people.

As said above, voting has always and will always have an impact on everyone’s lives. Voting has changed and improved throughout the years, and as this change has come about it has brought a major form of expression for the people. Without voting, our country would be far less unified than it is today. As John Lewis once said, “The vote is precious. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it.”

Voting: Our Civic Responsibility

By Sylvia Pesch, senior 
Pelican Rapids High School

When reflecting on the divisiveness of politics in 2022, it can be easy to become discouraged about the future. From the Minnesota State Senate to Capitol Hill, politicians finding ways to move forward in a bipartisan manner often seems like a rare occurrence. At times, the tension between red and blue party lines seems irreversible. Many happenings in government are out of our realm of control. Something that is in our control, however, is choosing to go to the polls each year. Every American citizen has the right to engage in this fundamental part of democracy. All in all, voting matters because of the importance of every vote. On a larger scale, voting matters because of its essentialness to democracy.

Firstly, every ballot influences the outcome of an election. Voting grants us the opportunity to create the change we’d like to see in the world. After all, casting a ballot for a candidate is casting a ballot for their political values and viewpoints. This is significant because of the wide variety of issues that affect Americans. Perhaps even more important is how the urgency of these issues is perceived by different people. For instance, according to an October 2022 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 70% of registered voters stated that the future of democracy was “very important to their midterm vote.” Additionally, “six-in-ten or more said the same about education (64%), health care (63%), energy policy (61%) and violent crime (61%)” (Schaffer and Green). These numbers show that the issues voters prioritize widely vary, as well as the power in being able to impact how we are represented in government.

Another reason that voting matters is because of its importance to democracy. As an American, it can sometimes be easy to take living in a democratic government for granted. Likewise, it can be easy to forget that voting isn’t a universal right; not every country allows its citizens to participate in the election process. “Who do I want making the decisions that affect me?” This is a question that countless people around the world don’t have a voice in. Furthermore, even in a country founded on the premise of democracy, such as the United States, voting wasn’t always an accessible right to all citizens. For decades, several minority groups were turned away from polling places, from African Americans to Native Americans to women. These global and historical perspectives amplify the privilege of being able to vote. 

From the East Coast to the West Coast, voting is the civic responsibility of every American. Disagreement with political leadership, whether at the local, state, or national level, may cause one to question the individual power they hold in democracy, particularly the significance of their ballot. “Does my vote truly make a difference?” In short, yes; voting allows citizens to let their voice be heard and contribute to change-making. This right helps actualize the vision our founding fathers intended for every American: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Before signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson stated, “This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless.” Despite this statement’s age, its relevance carries on. Even in a politically divided world, democracy persists, much of which can be traced back to the critical right of voting.

Why Voting Is Important

By Ian Fahje
Pelican Rapids High School

My one vote doesn’t matter, right? I mean it’s only one vote when I know hundreds of others will vote. It is just a waste of time and I don’t know much about these people so why should I vote when I don’t have a good reason? Wh]at are the chances that my vote is going to make a difference in the outcome? People think this all the time about voting and it may cause inaccurate outcomes.

I personally know someone who won an election all because of one vote. His wife was teaching in a different school and didn’t think she was going to make it back in time for the election. She did end up making it back and got her vote in with just a couple of minutes left. The next day when they got the results they realized that the top two candidates were tied. That led to them having a coin flip where the guy I know won the coin flip and the election. If one person didn’t vote the outcome could have been totally different.

A reason people don’t vote is that they don’t do their research so when it is time to vote they don’t even know who they want to win. People need first to figure out what they want and after that find a person who has similar thoughts and ideas as them. The first time my brother voted he didn’t do any research so he just asked our parents who to vote for.  The next year he realized that he wanted different things than them which led to him doing his research and voting for who he wanted.

It is important to voice your opinion. Not voting is a way to silence yourself and you don’t want people to tell you something you don’t want. It may seem like your voice isn’t getting heard with your vote but if a lot of people think this way then the voting will be very inaccurate. This may result in angry people but can they be mad if they didn’t even vote? If everyone were to vote then the majority of people would like the things happening to the country but there are so many people that don’t vote and we can’t get a hundred percent of people to voice their opinion. That is why we need everyone able to vote to get out and vote.

Voting for the right people can affect your living a lot. Students here at Pelican wanted the school to keep four-day school weeks and they were too young to vote. I bet they wish they could’ve had a vote on the school board members so they could elect someone who agreed with them. Once they are older they would like to voice their opinion on thoughts about the town, state, and country.

Now ask yourself the same questions. Voting is a waste of time, right? Wrong, voting allows you to voice your opinion and give you a chance at having what you want to be done with your area. If you don’t want someone on the committee then get out and vote. It may have a big impact on the outcome. Voting with knowledge of the candidates will make it easier for you to decide and save time.