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. 

Why voting matters…

By Zundus Ali, senior
Pelican Rapids High School 

Voting is one of the most important rights of American citizens. It is also a crucial way to participate in our democracy in which people voice their opinions. Elections hold great importance and are a way people can engage in civic life. They also affect all Americans. 

Many people do not recognize this and are the same ones who don’t know how every vote counts. They believe that their one vote won’t make a difference, which is completely untrue. Voting can make a huge difference and is in the hands of the citizens. They have the opportunity to change their government by voting for their representatives. 

In the past, only white men had the right to vote and minorities were excluded and not given a voice. Although that has changed today, voter suppression is still an ongoing issue. Despite marginalized people gaining back their civil rights, states and politicians continue to use specific strategies to disenfranchise some voters. Because of this, a growing number of the population’s voices are unheard and are also misrepresented. As an individual who is eighteen or above, you should take this into consideration and take this chance to choose representatives that are for you and what you align yourself with.

Obviously, voting isn’t a mandatory task or something that can be forced upon a person. But, it is something that tells the government what you want and where you stand. For instance, if you dislike the amount of taxes you’re required to pay, then you can vote for a candidate who promises to reduce taxes. If there is a politician in power whose ideologies you don’t agree with, then you can utilize your right and vote them out. Even though your vote alone is not enough, it still undeniably holds weight. There have been some instances in American history where the elections came down to only a few votes, like the Florida vote recount in 2000. A single vote can make a significant difference and can be the determining factor in a close race.

Another important part of voting is to educate yourself on the politicians who are running for office. The people who you’re voting for will make decisions during their terms that will affect you and your community. Voter education is something that should be encouraged especially for younger voters who’ve never voted before. It is the voter’s responsibility to be informed of the candidate’s policies and what they stand for. They should also be educated on the issues and positions of candidates. Voters must do their research before voting.

These are all reasons why American citizens should take their civic duty of voting seriously. Being able to participate in civic life and choosing your representatives is a great deal. To have a voice and be able to choose the representatives that shape our government is no trivial thing that should be overlooked. The elections hold tremendous weight and have consequences. Midterm elections are often overlooked and have low voter turnout rates compared to other elections even though they determine who will be in charge of your state and more specifically, your city. Most importantly, voting is an opportunity for change. 

Voting: The Legacy We Carry On

By Alyssa Halbakken, senior
Pelican Rapids High Schoool 

America. Our beloved country. A nation whose foundation was constructed upon a fervent ambition for freedom. Defiant in nature, bold in our ideals, we stood unwavering in the glare of our oppressors. For even though redcoats once sought to stain our soil with their colors, to stamp out our radiant dreams of liberty, we, who appeared as meek, weary pebbles to the great mountain, did not settle for meek or weary. Rather, united, we forged on, fortified in spirit, in bravery, in untamable audacity. And though the muskets cloaked the battlefields in smoke and their lead bullets beckoned souls from their bodies, we held fast the desire for our independence. An independence that, only after great displays of resolve and honorable sacrifice, did come to be sealed in ink upon canvas threads. 

Indeed, our precious freedom was not merely plucked from the hands of fate. Cherished lives were spent in pursuit of this land’s most prominent belief. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, they all served as valiant soldiers of the American dream. Whether it was the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Boston Massacre, or one of Britain’s many other violent endeavors to suppress us, our revolutionary brethren denied the threat of silence until their very breath ceased to reach the air. And though their persistent commitment was remorsefully punished, without their steadfast nature, our freedom may not have been granted. 

Acknowledging this, our forefathers designed a government capable of protecting and embracing America’s hard-earned ideals. For after all the souls had departed, the battles had raged, and the wounds in our history had faded into scars, it was dutiful respect that demanded they follow through with their purpose for war and strife. And that obedience bore us the liberties we had so earnestly fought for; rights to life, untainted bliss, unrestrained speech, just self-defense, and bountiful others. Truly, our nation’s founders embedded an abundance of freedom into our country. Quite possibly even an amount beyond our merit. 

So how do we repay our fallen brethrens’ generosity? How do we honor the countless dreamers who gambled their lifeblood for a future they never got to see? For we have inherited a most precious, yet gratis offering whose cost was covered by a red flag.

Our closest solution: emulate their patriotism through our civic responsibilities, thus designating one such action as our ability to vote. For through this deed, we echo the fallens’ lost cries for independence, replicating them with our own voices so that no individual’s significance may be forgotten. So that the citizens’ power may remain superior over tyranny in a country made for the people, by the people. So that we may retain the great fortune of liberty. Each submitted ballot, each spoken mind, they represent more than trivial political perspectives. They’re reminders that we alone carve the path for our government to tread. 

But too often, we embrace elections as times of division; when the diverging paths each of us envision breed ire into our hearts. Worse off, once allowed to fester, this corruptive behavior poses the threat of blurring the true purpose for voting with veils of political differences, grudges, and hate. To remain unified, we cannot succumb to acting on behalf of these deplorable motives. Rather, we must recall the fundamental beliefs of our country and remember who we are, who we were, and how we came to be. Just as our revolutionary founders once bravely defended their ambition for independence, so can we protect that same ideal by completing the simple task of voting. For after everything those first soldiers gave to earn the mere prospect of freedom, the power to respect their wishes and protect their reward resides solely within ourselves. And though the legacy we carry on is one that dictates much spirit, the act of voting may be used as a stepping stone as we near that peak of nationality.