Why we vote

Supporters waiting for the Pete Buttigieg watch party to begin during the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

Victoria Reyna-Rodriguez

Nationwide, eyes are upon the presidential race. From rallies to caucuses, American citizens everywhere are participating.

According to the United States Elections Project, more than 58 percent of all eligible voters voted in the 2016 general election, and over 138 million Americans total voted altogether. Every four years, millions of Americans exercise their constitutional right, but what drives them?

Opal Rustad, sophomore in performing arts, participated in the Iowa caucus Monday night and said, “It’s important for my voice to be heard, I have a right to vote, and I’m here just to vote for who I want.”

It has been made clear through past elections that not everyone who can vote does. Rustad said she encourages everyone who is capable to exercise their constitutional right and vote.

“I think they just need to go get out there and vote, it doesn’t even take that long, just really quick, and your voice gets to be heard,” Rustad said.

Emma Vanzante, senior in architecture and fellow caucusgoer, agreed with Rustad that every vote and voice matters.

“One vote does a lot here,” Vanzante said. “One person’s voice persuades tons of others and eventually that can change the entire dynamic of one group to another. You can go from one person in one group, from a hundred people in that group, just from one person speaking up […] we need everybody here.”

This year’s 2020 caucus was Vanzante’s second caucus she has attended, and just as good of an experience as the first.

“I love caucusing, I did it my first time four years ago back home in Urbandale, Iowa, and it was a lot of fun to get together with the community and it’s just a great experience,” Vanzante said. “A lot of people aren’t always as involved and this is a great way to get people involved with the political elections every four years.”

For many, Monday night was their first opportunity to participate in the caucuses. Thomas Wilson, senior in English, caucused for the first time this year.

“Because the last election I was too young to get involved, and because of how it turned out I knew I’d need to do my part,” Wilson said. “It’s your right to say who you want to become president, and if you don’t make your voice heard, your preferred candidate will suffer because of it. One vote doesn’t seem like a lot, but when a large portion of people think that way, then there are a lot of voices that aren’t being expressed.”

Nicolais Mulhern, senior in psychology, also saw large importance in caucusing and speaking up during this political season.

“People should caucus because it is their responsibility as a citizen in the richest and most powerful country in the world, and also a massive privilege,” Mulhern said.

As shown by previous caucuses and elections, there are many American citizens who have the power to vote, but choose not to. Mulhern expressed why he feels this can be harmful. 

“People all over the world have to live with the consequences of our elections and they would give anything to have a vote in our election — something our citizens regularly throw away without a second thought because they ‘don’t do politics,’” Mulhern said. “It is ridiculously privileged and hypocritical to stay out of the democratic process and then complain about the state of our nation and the world.”

Mulhern also had advice for those who are debating voting, or feel their single vote won’t make a difference in such a large election. He shared a personal story from caucusing Monday night.

“After first alignment the Bernie camp needed three more heads to be considered viable and the Klobuchar group needed six,” Mulhern said. “We managed to get the people we needed from the Yang and Steyer group as well as an independent — but the Klobuchar group ended one person short of viability.”

Though one vote compared to hundreds, thousands or even millions seems small, every effort makes a difference.

“This one person was the difference between Amy getting a delegate from our precinct and 30 people going home empty handed. There is no massive movement without individual voices. I encourage people to have some respect for themselves and realize that they are important enough to make a difference in this world,” Mulhern said.