America’s Greatest Privilege

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One of the greatest rights of an American citizen is the ability to influence the leadership in the United States by voting for president. Ever since the first election in 1789, the qualifications to vote have greatly broadened through additional amendments; as long as you are a U.S. citizen 18 years or older, you most likely qualify to vote. But as the number of eligible voters has increased since the first election, the percentage of the Voter Age Population (VAP) turnout has slowly dwindled to 57% in the 2012 election. The United States was ranked ninth out of 35 democratic countries worldwide for voter turnout.


Photo credit: Peter Schorsch/Florida Politics.

As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton square off in this historic 2016 election, the American people have mixed feelings about voter turnout expectations. More than any other election, some people consider both candidates as misrepresentations of their parties or personally despise the character of both candidates, causing an overwhelming amount of the VAP to consider stay home. Even voters in our own community at Collegiate have become skeptical about both major party candidates. However, these voters should realize the implications of this election and how each candidate will attempt to change the country in extremely different ways.

In August, The New York Times published a statistical breakdown of the primary election. 41% of the entire United States population (including individuals not eligible to vote) are expected to participate in the presidential election. Roughly 18% of this population voted in the primaries, and half of these voters chose either Clinton or Trump — that’s only 9% of the American population. These statistics shine light on how shameful American interest in politics truly is, but it also brings more suspense with just weeks before Election Day. Both candidates only received just over 4% of the American votes each, which showed neither candidate was a clear favorite, just like the 2008 election between John McCain and Barack Obama. So despite Clinton maintaining a noticeable advantage over Trump in most polls, it is still important to cast your ballot, remembering that only 9% of the American population right now is wholeheartedly supporting one of the candidates.


Photo credit: Kyle Cheney/Politico.

Because of all the accusations and drama between Trump and Clinton, it’s hard for some voters to concentrate on each candidate’s views on important issues. Not only will this cause many people abstain from voting, but in certain states, many voters are expected to vote against the party that they traditionally vote for. This turns many states, like North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Colorado, into more competitive swing states. In past elections, these states recorded less voter turnout because they clearly leaned towards one party. But upwards of 15 states are considered toss-up states this year, which should influence all voters to make their voices heard.

Once one of these candidates is sworn into presidency, they will be tasked with selecting at least one, and probably more, new Supreme Court justices. President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland as a new justice, but the Senate has demonstrated disapproval of this choice, preferring that the ensuing president to make this decision. Both candidates are considering justices with extremely different political views to fill this spot; Clinton supports Obama’s choice of Garland, believing he will advocate for women’s rights and LGBT rights, while Trump’s choices consist of justices with histories that are more hostile to ideas like same-sex marriage and abortion. With the possibility of two more Supreme Court Justices stepping down in the next four-year term, the next president and the justices they appoint will have a major influence on U.S federal law that could span half a century.  

Environmental responsibility and energy consumption has become a hot topic, as the United States releases the most emissions per person in the world. President Obama signed the United States into the Paris Agreement, which will take effect in November. The agreement limits national emission in 55 countries in an effort to prevent the average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. Clinton backs the initiation of the Paris Agreement and other climate control programs but opposes the Keystone Pipeline, along with continued drilling the Arctic Ocean. Trump plans to support the Keystone Project, remove the US from the Paris Agreement, and undo almost all of the environmental policy implemented by President Obama.


Photo credit: Callie Crossley/WHBG News.

But showing up to vote on Election Day isn’t just about choosing the 45th president of the United States. It’s one of the greatest privileges of our democratic society to make the voice of the people heard, fulfilling your civic duty to represent our great nation. But every November also gives people to opportunity to express their opinion on leaders for their state and county and address their concern for certain problems within their own communities. For example, the Henrico ballot lists multiple questions about issuing money to different institutions, like schools, roads, and libraries, around the county. Your vote represents you as a member of your community, not just 1 out of 324 million people. Even in such a controversial election, I think it’s crucial to participate in the election to maintain a healthy democracy, especially for the Upper School seniors who have entered adulthood and are able to vote for the first time. As an 18-year-old myself, I’m really excited to participate in my first election. I think it’s extremely important to voice my opinion about the next president, who will influence the next four to eight years of this country, as I transition from high school, to college, and to the real world.

COUNTERPOINT: For another perspective, read Brenton Hayward’s opinion piece on why he will not choose a candidate on this year’s presidential ballot. 

About the author

I am a senior at Collegiate School.