An open letter to my brother who refuses to vote

The power of youth voting will significantly impact the  future of our democracy.

(Grayson Seibert / Daily Trojan)

Dear Ahaan,

As you look down the road ahead, I am compelled to reach out to you, not just as your older brother but as someone who has grappled with many of the same discontents and questions about the political landscape you now face. I understand that you have decided not to vote in the upcoming elections this year, and while I respect the thoughtfulness with which you have arrived at this decision, I feel it is my responsibility to share a perspective that might illuminate the broader implications of participating — or choosing not to participate — in our civic duties.

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You have often mentioned that voting seems futile in the grand scheme of things, a mere drop in the ocean. While this sentiment resonates with many in today’s political environment, I ask you to consider that the power of a single vote serves as a mechanism of change and a testament to our collective responsibility as citizens of a democracy. Every significant movement or policy shift starts as a ripple — created by individual actions like yours. While it is true that one vote may not sway a primary election by itself, the collective effect of thousands like you is often the difference between stagnation and progress.

Furthermore, voter turnout, especially among the younger demographics, is declining, a result of feeling ineffective within an extensive system. However, when young voter turnout increases, ignoring the interests and values of younger generations becomes nearly impossible. Thus, your vote might seem little, but it makes a massive difference in determining the future.

It is a valid concern to feel that no candidate aligns with your views or seems genuinely committed to the issues of our generation, but politics — inherently — are a game of compromise and negotiation.

Simply withdrawing from the electoral system by not voting does not reclaim authority or protest the system; it yields the floor to those whom you may disagree with even more. Even when choices are not ideal, engaging in politics allows us to push candidates and parties toward the issues that matter most. You may think that politicians primarily focus on their self-interest. Still, it is essential to remember that their success ultimately depends on appealing to the voters.

Undoubtedly, politics are complex, and the fear of making an incorrect choice is significant, but let this complexity inspire rather than deter you. Your vote highlights your input in a system that thrives on diverse perspectives. By starting small and voting on local issues you are familiar with, you can deter the fear of casting an uninformed vote and take a step toward a broader understanding of the national political landscape.

Ahaan, your passion for direct action and community involvement is admirable; however, it does not serve as a substitute for the effectiveness of voting. Both avenues are not just complementary — they are mutually reinforcing. While it is true that direct action and community engagement can lead to faster, more effective changes in a way that voting cannot, voting sets up the groundwork for systemic change, creating a framework within which activism flourishes. By voting, you help set the stage on which these acts of advocacy play out, ensuring that the systemic change you fight for has a chance to be realized and sustained.

Your commitment to balancing work, education and personal growth is a testament to your dedication, and indeed, voting can be a time-consuming process that you might not prioritize at all. However, many states, including ours, offer mail-in ballots or early voting to accommodate busy schedules like yours since the outcomes of elections will influence your daily life. Thus, investing little time into voting can yield substantial returns.

I know the bureaucratic maze of voter registration can be extremely daunting. At first glance, I would hate to navigate it, too; however, governments and other organizations have invested heavily to streamline the process and make it as easy as possible to ensure that everyone who can vote does. Overcoming this hurdle is incredibly empowering, and it is only after you commit to it that you realize that it is not as complex as it seems.

Ahaan, I write this letter not just to counter points but to illuminate the collective power we hold when we engage fully in our civic duties, which are vital in maintaining the integrity of our democracy. Your voice matters immensely. It is a right and a privilege many worldwide still fight for. Let us not take it for granted.


Shaleen Goyal

USC Class of 2025

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