Why we vote

*Editor’s Note: The “Views from NAU” blog series highlights the thoughts of different people affiliated with NAU, including faculty members sharing opinions or research in their areas of expertise. The views expressed reflect the authors’ own personal perspectives.

Sara Rinfret head shotBy Sara Rinfret

Associate Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs & Professor, Politics & International Affairs

Dr. Rinfret is a nationally recognized scholar in regulatory policy, environmental policy and public administration. She has published eight books, several book chapters and more than 40-peer-reviewed articles. Her latest books, out this year, are U.S. Environmental Policy in Action and The Environmental Case. Translating Values into Policy

 In many countries across the globe, voting is mandatory. Voting in the United States is a choice for most Americans 18 years of age or older. More than 150 million Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election—a record turnout. Yet almost a third of eligible voters do not vote in U.S. elections. Inevitably, voting is an act of civic participation that informs local, state and federal policymaking. In celebration of National Voter Registration Day, we document several reasons why we should register to vote.  

Why voting matters 

  • People fought and died for our right to vote. The United States Constitution did not originally specify who could vote, leaving it to the states to decide. In most cases, only landowning White men were eligible to vote. As a result, people died for our right to vote in the United States. Black men were not able to vote until 1869 and women in 1920, with the passage of the 15th and 19th amendments.  
  • Your one vote matters. A myth about voting is that one person’s vote does not have an impact on electoral outcomes. Casting your vote can make a difference in the result of an election. Presidential and statewide races can be determined by only a few votes.  
  • Because we can. Voting is a choice and luxury. We can decide who to elect, re-elect or un-elect at the local, state and federal levels.  

Understanding the nuances of voting 

Two primary reasons why people do not vote or register to vote are:   

  1. the amount of time available
  2. lack of understanding of issues or candidates on the ballot

To address these concerns, we recommend a series of quick-and-easy resources:  

Registering to vote resources: Registering to vote should take approximately five minutes and in Arizona can be completed online. 

Regardless of your background, consider taking five minutes to register to vote or encouraging your friends, family, colleagues and neighbor to do so. If you care about your local, state or national community, your single vote does shape the direction of the United States. Voting is an act of public participation, which is essential for a vibrant democracy.  

Top photo credit: Element5 Digital on Unsplash

NAU Communications