Vote Earth

5 Things To Tell Your Friends and Family Who Are Reluctant to Vote

Voting is the most foundational aspect of American democracy. It is one of the few outlets that truly allow any citizen to let their opinions be heard through the officials they elect. However, on all sides of the political spectrum, trust in the process has deteriorated. You may even have reluctant voters amongst your friends and family who are perfectly capable of voting, but actively choose not to vote. To not vote is an injustice to American citizens who are incapable of voting due to voter suppression tactics or other numerous challenges. 

Here are five common excuses many people make to not vote on Election Day and how to respond to them. With many candidates this year running on themes of sustainability and environmental issues, making sure as many people get out there and vote will influence the policy decisions made for decades to come.

1. “My district is deep red/blue: my vote won’t matter!”

No matter what congressional district you live in, there are tight races for positions all over the place, especially for local positions. Many of the most influential pro-climate legislation is implemented in local jurisdictions due to environmentalist mobilization.

Direct action is easiest to implement when it is on smaller scales like this, such as funding for green municipal infrastructure or action against plastic pollution within townships. In districts where the House and Senate races are uncontested, the positive influences of small, local choices can gradually shift the mindsets of those running for higher positions.

2. “None of the candidates interest me!”

Even if no one in your district is running on issues you are interested in, the decisions they make can cascade up. Research other candidates running in your area and their stance on climate action. Even if their ideals don’t perfectly align with yours, voting for someone you know can work well with others to enact useful legislation could lead to broader climate action down the road.

The internal dread people feel when voting for a candidate they see as the “lesser of two evils” is understandable: not everyone has your best interests at heart. Regardless, it is good to familiarize yourself with your ballot to see what these candidates’ priorities are.

3. “I’m busy that day, I won’t have time to go to the polls!”

There are plenty of options for people who cannot vote in person on the Tuesday of Election Day. This site from the National Conference of State Legislatures lists all of the options for early in-person voting, with most states starting around 20 days early.

For mail-in absentee ballots, this site provides the deadlines for each state. Most states require ballots to be received within a few days of Election Day, so the sooner you can mail those in, the better.

The deadlines for early voting options vary greatly from state to state, so do your own research on your state and district for specific details.

4. “The system is rigged against me, it’s flawed to its core!”

People on all sides of the political spectrum have their own grievances with the electoral systems in place. To disregard the one major system that allows everyday people to have their voices heard is a disservice to our democracy. Even if you have lost trust in the process, there is no harm in contributing by voting for whomever aligns closest to your values.

Time and again, elections in the United States have been proven safe, secure, and accurate to the wills of the voting population. The physical and digital security of US voting infrastructure is among the highest on the planet. The FBI even states that the only major threat to the integrity of elections is voter suppression from bad actors. Making the choice to vote is the best way to combat this issue.

Only 66.8% of the voting age population of the United States turned out for the 2020 presidential election. With a third of the population unrepresented, your vote can help shrink this disparity.

5. “I’m just one person, I can’t influence anything on my own!”

One vote on its own can hardly shift things, but a shift in the mentality of thousands of like-minded reluctant voters surely can. Your decision to vote can and does influence others to do the same. The lack of action on climate change can be disheartening. However, with higher vote counts from individuals passionate about climate action, the shift in priorities can cascade up and lead to more environmentally-conscious elected officials.

EARTHDAY.ORG’s campaign Vote Earth goes far beyond the process of actually voting. The fight against climate change is just as much a shift in culture as it is a shift in the policies that enable action. Talking to your friends and family about the truths about climate change no matter how challenging that may be is vital to maintaining an informed and motivated voting population. There is no other issue a candidate can run on that is as fundamental to the long-term habitability of our planet. Even though one vote on its own can hardly affect the outcome of an election, thousands of “one votes” can.