Michigan’s general election is now less than 10 days away. While the last day to register was Oct. 6, the Lanthorn encourages everyone who is already registered to vote to participate. On Nov. 4, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots are also an option for members of the Grand Valley State University community who can’t make it in to the polls, and may be requested as late as Nov. 1.

Your votes are needed. 

In the United States, our democracy is struggling. This can be easily seen through our voter participation, which is consistently lower than other comparative democracies. According to the Pew Research Center, only 54 percent of eligible citizens voted in the 2012 presidential election. Even less, a mere 37 percent, participated in the 2010 midterm election. 

Conversely, in Australia, there was a 93 percent voter turnout in their 2013 election, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. In Australia, residents are required by law to vote, or pay a fine. Failure to pay the fine may result in a court hearing.

While being required to vote may go against the idea that, “not voting is also an expression of freedom of speech,” it certainly is effective in increasing turnout. However, people voting out of fear of a fine may not be informed voters, which makes their vote almost pointless. 

Without informed voters, democracy essentially ceases to exist. So, if voting is one of the main ways for citizens to participate in the democratic process, why don’t people vote?

Some people don’t believe their vote means anything, especially those who support third party candidates. In the U.S., third parties, with far less funds for campaigning, rarely stand a chance against their Democratic and Republican counterparts. 

Other people are just uninterested in politics. They don’t see how political decisions directly affect them or why they should care since they feel they can’t control what happens in the political sphere anyway.

There have been many people who have worked for years to gain the right to vote and add their opinion to the democratic process. People in some countries still may not enjoy this freedom. Nowadays, it is taken for granted in the U.S. that we can vote, so many people don’t exercise that right. Your voice matters, so take the time to go to the polls next week.