We’ve all heard the phrase “every vote counts.” Many dismiss it as a simple platitude, but there is real truth to this statement. In Andover’s Congressional Democratic primary on September 4, fewer than 200 votes decided the election. While I acknowledge that most Andover students cannot vote yet, elections should still hold value to us. The people elected in our towns, districts, and states will help shape our futures — for better or for worse.
Recently, Andover alumnus Dan Koh ’03 ran for Congress in Massachusetts’ Third Congressional District, the district neighboring our school, which is in the Sixth District. Although electoral districts vary between states, they refer to different parts of each state, in which each district can elect one or more representatives for local, state, and federal positions.
When it came to election day on September 4, Koh waged a tough race that came down to a difference of 52 votes, according to “The New York Times.” One of his opponents, Lori Trahan, a candidate from Lowell, Mass., won with a total of 18,368 votes. But, with the number so close, a recount was issued to determine the final verdict. On September 17, “The Boston Herald” reported that Trahan emerged as the district’s Democratic nominee, officially beating Koh by only 145 votes.
However small they may seem, 145 people out of 89,000 were enough to decide the fate of the entire Third District. This is not an isolated incident.
In 2008, former Alaska congressman Mike Kelly demonstrated the importance of voting when he won his seat by only four votes, as reported by “Ballotpedia.” Perhaps the most famous example of the importance of voting is in the 2,000 presidential election when 537 votes separated George W. Bush ’64 and Al Gore in Florida, according to “The Politic,” Yale University’s undergraduate political journal. This 0.00005-percent vote margin decided our president.
Voting is a constitutional right — it is critical to any functional democracy. Independent of politics or party, people have died for our right to vote. When this right is squandered by those who deem it unimportant, democracy does not succeed. Regardless of political affiliation, it is our civil obligation to educate ourselves and vote for someone who we feel represents us, whether they’re a local school board member or the President of the United States.
Despite being ineligible to vote at the moment, we still have the ability to advocate for the candidate we feel represents our ideas. The easiest way to do this is through conversation with friends and family members who can vote. Beyond that, there’s an entire realm of volunteer opportunities, internships, and other methods of involvement that those who cannot vote are able to take advantage of.
Only one vote or only one passionate supporter may seem small and insignificant, but if 145 people had decided their vote was insignificant, the Third District would have a different Democratic candidate for Congress.
If you care about your community, make time to advocate for a person who you believe in. Election Day is November 6. Spend five minutes or 50 hours campaigning for someone you care about. Whether you are eligible to vote or not, your voice holds more value in determining the state of the government systems we live in, and even just advocating can go a long way.
Ava Ratcliff is a two-year Lower from Bearsville, N.Y. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org