A Ballad of Ballots


Illustration courtesy of Jenny Kroik

Individuals lining up to vote.

Kobi Khong, Photojournalist

 My mom was eight years old when she came to the United States, in the pitch black of night she and her 12 siblings boarded what would generously be called a raft, and sailed in hopes of a better life as gunshots and the overbearing fear of tyranny weighed on her shoulders. It took over a year of refugee camps and rescue for her to arrive in a land with nothing but the clothes on her back, but if asked if she would do it again, she’d say yes.  Her reason? Freedom. 

Our right of voting is something we take for granted, as more than 40% of the countries in the world don’t operate on such a democracy. Our vote allows “We The People” to make reality out of the changes that we, as a society, want to see within the world.  

My favorite quote comes from a man named Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior under the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was May 18th of 1941, the global population on the cusp of what would become the largest international conflict that the world had ever seen; Harold Ickes stood amongst a crowd in New York’s Central Park and told the American public what it needed to hear; his presentation was titled “What is an American.” “We know that the spirit of freedom never dies. We know that men have fought and bled for freedom since time immemorial. No, liberty never dies. The Genghis Khans come and go. The Attilas come and go. The Hitlers flash and sputter out. But freedom endures.” Our right to vote is not an intrinsic value of our nation, the saying goes freedom isn’t free, our freedom of opinion came at the sacrifice of veterans who selflessly defended our nation and its ideals as established within the Constitution. Brave individuals who stood their ground against tyranny so that every citizen within our society has representation within our government, so that their children along with the next generation will never have to fear their rights being oppressed.

The problem is that every day the public perception of voting is becoming less and less important, as time continues and continues especially with our “gen z” generation, our world is filled with cynicism and distrust towards our government. However, in reality, that’s all the more reason to vote, the policies we create today are the ones which impact our future; the issues which affect our world from climate change to gun violence are blatant dilemmas which control our lives. Young voters account for more than half of the voting population, but we are one of the least likely demographics to participate in elections. When people in congress make policies and legislation they’re not making it for themselves, their implementations affect us, the youth who are growing up into the world, so it’s vital that we have our input into how our nation’s function. Shifa Mirza (12), a board officer for Yorba Linda High School’s Political and Social Activism Club said “The reason why voting is so important to us teenagers, is that it lets us shape the future and create a world that we want to live in.”

When the subject of voting is brought up, a term usually connected is the idea of civic duty, that we as American citizens have an obligation to vote. I disagree.  Our right to vote is not a chore to check off a to-do list; our ideals of democracy are not drudgery. Our votes matter because they’re the culmination of the dreams and sacrifices of millions throughout history. Our votes matter because with them we can make a difference in the world through our actions. Our votes matter because a single check mark on a single ballot can profoundly impact our lives, our communities, our nation, and our world.