I Voted From India: 5 Reasons You Should Vote Too

Less than a month ago I arrived in Mumbai (Bombay), India for my second adventure living abroad. One of my first forays outside the “bubble” of staying in a hotel was a trip to the United States Consulate for a voting party. Americans from across the political spectrum and from a variety of backgrounds and professions gathered to cast their absentee ballots at the consulate while enjoying a super-duper patriotic celebration. Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty were in attendance, we were served sliders and pizza and the décor was unabashedly patriotic. There is something about being an ex-patriot that makes you, well, more patriotic. Sadly, far too many registered voters won't exercise that right. The turn-out in the 2008 Presidential election was relatively high, hovering around just 61 percent. For non-Presidential election years it is usually much less.

 

The Statue of Liberty and me.

I know people get tired of all the platitudes about the importance of voting. Many people are either too disillusioned to vote, wrongly assume there is no difference between the major political parties or are simply apathetic. Even after the Florida debacle of 2000, many citizens don't believe that their vote really counts (Bush won by a little more than 500 votes). Well, they're wrong. Here are five reasons why you should cast your ballot on November 6th.

  

  1. We are incredibly lucky to be American: Every day that I'm in India I encounter poverty on a level that Americans just don't experience. It's miserable to be poor in the United States, but it is nothing like the squalor and the abject poverty in other parts of the world. India is an amazing country that is making huge strides as an emerging economy, yet the average annual income is roughly $2,000 per year. In some parts of the country there are 940 girls to every 1,000 boys born each year. Many families still value boys over girls and some couples will abort a girl fetus if they know the sex of the child before it's birth.
  2. The Suffragettes didn't fight for nothing: My grandmother was ten years old before women got the vote. By the time I was ten Sally Ride had been in space, Geraldine Ferraro had run for Vice President and Sandra Day O'Connor was sitting on the Supreme Court. Think what our great-grandmothers would say if they knew we squandered the opportunity to vote.

    Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

     

  3. The Supreme Court:Even if you aren't that excited about either of the Presidential candidates, consider the judges they will appoint. Justice Antonin Scalia was appointed by Ronald Reagan and he's still on the bench. The next president may very well appoint two or more Supreme Court justices — not to mention a whole lot of other Federal judges. These people sit on the bench for as much as 30 or 40 years and they make decisions every day that affect us, whether we realize it or not. These are the people who will determine if you have a right to an abortion or if your employer has to provide health insurance that includes birth control coverage. The current court is at least partly responsible for the massive spending seen in our recent elections because they've determined that money equals free speech. Future courts may very well decide cases involving marriage rights, the environment, corporate regulation....these people have a tremendous impact on the character and complexion of our nation.

    Image courtesy of Donkey Hotey

  4. Local elections and ballot measures: Fed up with the national candidates? Angry that we don't have stronger third parties? Then show up to vote for the local and state elections. As Bobbi Jo Rohrberg pointed out earlier this week, it's not just about voting for President. There are local and state-wide races and the outcomes may greatly impact your life. Additionally, many states and municipalities have ballot measures that address issues which you may care about very deeply. Whether it's increasing funding for education or legalizing pot, you're likely to find something that makes voting worthwhile.
  5. Community: The exciting thing about voting at the consulate was the tremendous sense of community, common purpose and patriotism I felt. Since we were voting absentee, we could have easily mailed in the ballots ourselves. There was no practical reason to drive an hour out of our way to drop our ballots in a box just so the consulate staff could mail the envelopes for us. Nevertheless, it was totally worth the effort. These days many people are voting early or by mail (technically we were doing both), but there's something special about gathering with fellow citizens to exercise one our greatest rights as Americans.