I was talking to one of my good friends in my room the other day when politics came up. I immediately went off on a rant about voter turnout and the dismal state of our democracy. As I wound down, my friend informed me quietly but matter-of-factly that he wasn’t going to vote.

My jaw dropped. I had no idea that he was part of the roughly 50 percent of eligible Americans who won’t bother to drag themselves away from work, school or bed to participate in our democracy on Election Day. As we talked about it for a while, I noticed a kind of attitude that I’ve seen in others before. It wasn’t apathy or laziness. It was more dangerous. He truly believed that he would make absolutely no difference if he voted. Through this conversation I also realized that many people who don’t vote believe that no matter what they do, they have no say in the government or in the way our country is run.

First of all, this belief is patently false. I worked in a local campaign office this summer, and in one of the primary elections the candidate I worked for lost by eight votes. I repeat: Eight votes. You and eight of your friends could have reversed this election’s results. If the candidate had spent two more hours knocking on doors and convincing voters to get to the polls, she might have won.

That was just a local election. The same phenomenon can occur on a larger scale. We all remember the 2000 presidential election, where the final outcome was decided by about 500 votes in Florida. If that doesn’t make you believe that every single vote counts, I don’t know what will.

But there is a reason for voting that goes above and beyond the statistics. The reason is not the candidates, the issues or the fact that a single vote may make a difference. The reason is that voting is what defines us as a democracy.

The vast majority of people in the United States, myself included, believe in democracy as a theory and an ideal. We cry out against dictatorships, we cry out for freedom all across the world. And yet half of the entire population doesn’t even realize what their belief in democracy means. The precise reason we have a democracy is because it gives every citizen a way to be heard in our society. In refusing to vote, half of us forfeit our only direct way of having a voice in government.

If we hold these beliefs and make these claims about the power of democracy, and yet do not participate in our own democratic government, then we are a nation of hypocrites, fighting for free elections all over the world and then not participating in our own back home. We are a nation of whiners, perpetually complaining about current conditions and the state of our lives, but making no move to change them. We are a nation of the uninterested, more worried about what happens today than decisions that could affect us years in the future.

However, I also believe that we are also a nation of the consistent, firm enough in our beliefs that we can hold them strong. That we are a nation of doers, knowing when to take action to change something wrong in the world. That we are a nation of the concerned, speaking out loud about things that will affect both our children and us. I believe in that nation, the nation where every citizen uses his or her own voice to bring up what they believe in. I believe in the nation where people participate because they know it is their way to apply their beliefs to the issues that affect them directly. I believe in the nation where we all vote.

Vote on Nov. 4. Make sure you bring your MCard and some kind of proof of residency (leasing statement, anything received from the university, etc.) to the polls, and that you refrain from wearing any paraphernalia that endorses a certain candidate (you will be turned away at the door or asked to remove the gear).

I don’t care if you believe that your vote makes a difference or not. Vote because even when you feel like you don’t have a voice in this country, you still do. You just need to learn to use it.

Seth Buchsbaum is an LSA sophomore. He is a representative on the Michigan Student Assembly’s Voice Your Vote commission.

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