Is Voting Important for our Community?
While your voting record is private, the fact that you did or did not vote is public information. Candidates and political parties will use this information in the 2008 elections to determine which groups of voters are important and which groups are not. The more we vote this year, the more important our community will be in future elections.
Many Arab and Muslim Americans who do not vote use the excuse that since they were born in countries where they did not have the opportunity to develop a voting habit and hence do not vote here in the United States. This reasoning reflects exactly what numerous voting studies have already shown: the likelihood of a person becoming a regular voter is directly related to whether their parents voted or not. In other words, if you do not vote then your children will not vote either. Obviously then, it is up to you to break this cycle. A vote is not just for a candidate but also for your children.
If you do not think a single vote makes a difference then change your perspective and make voting a personal action. Use your vote to cancel out someone else’s vote. Do you disagree with a family member, coworker or friend on an issue? Identify a person with whom you disagree and use your vote to cancel out their vote. In this way, one vote really does make a difference.
Finally, if the 2000 Presidential Election between Bush and Gore did not convince you that an individual’s vote is important then perhaps some math will help.
How important is a single vote? To make the math easy, let us talk about 100 people being eligible to decide an issue.
1. 100 people are eligible to vote. If all register and vote, then 51 votes decide the election.
2. If only 60 people register to vote (even though 100 people are eligible to register) and all 60 vote, 31 votes win the election.
3. If 60 people register to vote, but only 30 of them (50%) vote then it takes only 16 votes to win the election
As you’ve already guessed, scenario number three is what happens in this country every year – only 16 people out of a possible 100 decide the winner of our elections. It is time that our community joins this exclusive club and becomes one of the 16 votes that decide the policies of this country. We can join the club by voting on Elections Day.Arabs and Muslims number close to 9 million strong. We outnumber many other ethnic communities. If we can combine our numerical reserve with our financial contributions, we will soon become a dominant political force. Therefore, using the example above, a candidate needs only $16.00 out of a possible $100.00 to run a successful campaign. Be among the first to donate in any amount but please do it today.
As a final reminder, AAF is a non-partisan organization, which means we will not tell you how to vote but rather only that you should vote. If you are not sure about where to go to vote and who the candidates are then, there are many other resources available to you including your local newspaper that has likely issued a voter guide for your community. The Internet has easily accessible resources as well.Now that you have decided to vote, there are a couple of things that you need to do to maximize our impact:
1) Spread the word and motivate your friends and family to vote. Share this message with others; tell them that you have voted and that you hope they do so as well.
2) Talk about the election with your friends and family. The night before the election, review a voter guide with your children or friends and discuss how you plan to vote and why. Next, on the night of the election or the next morning, review the election results with your family and examine how your vote compared to the election results. Leading by example and including your family in the voting process is the most effective way to instill the responsibility of voting within our children and our community.
3) Don’t feel alone that there really is no choice to be made between the candidates. Many Americans feel ‘cheated” that better candidates are not running for office. Vote to make a difference.
4) The most dominant elections issue for our community is civil rights but you should also evaluate a candidate’s position on other issues such as security, education, the environment, and health matters.
If there is one thing to keep in mind is that our vote is our most assured tool to guarantee our civil rights and the only manner we can demonstrate our good citizenship. Remember citizenship entails rights and responsibilities and the two are not mutually exclusive. Yella, Vote and make a difference. See you at the polls!
Aref Assaf, PhD
President, American Arab Forum