This op-ed story was produced during the Fall 2020 Youth Voice Workshop.
“Cada voto conta.” In English, this means “every vote counts.”
One night a couple years ago, I overheard my mother saying this on the phone to my grandma, who lives in Brazil, along with half of my family.
In 2018, Brazil had a presidential election during a time of recession, political scandals and high crime rates. Citizens over the age of 18 are required by law to vote, but because of this, many Brazilians “voto nulo,” or cast a void ballot. My grandma was considering it, too.
“None of the candidates are going to solve the problems in Brazil,” she sighed in defeat.
The other half of my family lives in the United States. In the last two years, that means I’ve lived through two divisive presidential elections. There are parallels between the two elections: Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected president in the 2018 election, is known as a far-right dictator who has been given the nickname “Trump of the Tropics.”
Fast forward to today. Most of my friends are two years shy from being able to vote, but I already hear their dissatisfaction with the candidates and election process. “They are both old, and they both suck,” said one of my friends. “They are the same,” said another friend.
These are students who are informed – they keep up with the news and participate in things like debate yet are feeling uninterested with the election. Their reluctance reminded me of what my grandma felt in Brazil.
Voting is one of the most important ways citizens can directly impact what happens within government. “How can you complain about issues if you didn’t do your part to try to fix them?” my mom tells me often.
No one candidate on any ballot is likely going to perfectly align with your political beliefs. But whether you’re a fully-grown adult or a teenager who can’t yet vote, you must find a way to engage in the political process. It’s as important as ever. By not voting, you are choosing not to exercise a right that many around the world do not get.