Conventional wisdom teaches us that voting is supposed to be what makes democracy tick. Textbooks would have us believe our greatest act of public participation comes from the single ballot we cast that contributes to the election of our political leaders. But really, stop and ponder this: how many times has a single vote made the difference in an election? If you happen to live in a dinky hamlet in some abandoned corner of nowhere, then maybe your vote will someday “matter”—if only in deciding an election that doesn’t.
As for the rest of us, we’re deluding ourselves if we believe voting is the best or only way to make our voices heard in our democracy. Voting is a passive activity that enables citizens to tell themselves they’ve participated.
I’m not saying “don’t vote”—rather, “don’t only vote.” Do more. Take part actively in the public dialogue. Supplement your electoral enthusiasm with more productive forms of civic engagement.
If suffrage is the symbolic heartbeat of freedom, its legwork and brainpower both come from civic participation. All citizens have a right to be informed, and to be engaged in public affairs. Such civic involvement requires that you proactively take part.
Use your voice; it’s the most powerful instrument you have as an ordinary citizen. Use it in every way you know how.
You can exact far more change with your voice than you can with how you vote. That’s why no one has ever been sued for how they vote.
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