Your Vote Counts Whether or Not You Use It
By: Madalyn Godfrey, Mason Votes Contributor
Election Day 2023 is coming up in just a few short weeks (Tuesday, November 7) and early voting is already underway in Virginia. However, just because this is an “off-year” election, doesn’t mean it is unimportant.
In the Braddock District (home to George Mason University) alone, there are 14 seats up for grabs that Mason students who live on campus have a chance to vote for on or before Election Day.
Off-year elections often face the lowest voter turnout among registered voters despite the need to fill numerous elected positions. According to Fairfax County’s Office of Elections, of the 79,564 active voters registered in 2019, less than 50% cast a ballot. This means that local representatives across the county had a seat for four years that was determined by less than half of the voting-aged population they were representing.
Looking at it from a student’s perspective, that’s like electing a group leader by a margin of 2-to-1 when only three of the five people in the group showed up to vote.
Is that fair? Yes, even if it may not seem so.
The reason for this can be simply put: a vote counts whether or not someone uses it. By passively abstaining from voting, a person leaves the decision up to those who do participate.
While this may not have a huge effect on the voting system as a whole, it can significantly impact the outcome of an election. A candidate can easily win or lose based on the number of abstaining votes. Unlike Presidential or Midterm elections, which have some of the highest voter turnout, local government elections have the most direct impact on members of a community.
According to The White House website, “[local government] generally take responsibility for parks and recreation services, police and fire departments, housing services, emergency medical services, municipal courts, transportation services and public works.”
In essence, local representatives determine all the resources provided in an area with voters aiding in how these resources are managed, funded, and delivered. Deciding to vote or not determines whether these resources meet the needs of a community, ultimately creating long-lasting impacts on how a community thrives. This is especially true for the Mason community.
On-campus students at Mason have the opportunity to decide who they want as their local representative. By registering for a ballot with their Hub mailing address and voting at Merten Hall, students can influence the change they want to see for campus and the surrounding area.
Change happens with every election, including off-year local elections, whether or not a person decides to cast a ballot. Don’t rely on others to make impactful long-lasting decisions. Instead, take the initiative and exercise your right to vote!
Learn more about what’s on the ballot in Fairfax: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/sample-ballots
Madalyn Godfrey works as a Communication and Community Outreach Assistant for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Slider photo by: Mimi Albano