Voter turnout for the general election that took place last week was roughly 53 percent.

46.9 percent of all eligible voters did not show up. At all. Did not cast a vote and therefore elected to be completely silent.

This election was so close on both the popular vote and the electoral vote, but this isn’t directly about either of those outcomes. Had the 47 percent shown up—even if only half of those voters had shown up—it could have completely changed the outcome of the election.

Even if the voters elected NOT to vote for POTUS—which is completely acceptable—their voice would have been heard. Even if they wrote in something juvenile (which, by the way, please don’t do—it just causes more thankless work for people whose fault it is not that we had less-than-stellar choices this election).

Was it a timing issue? I live in a state that accepts early voting a month before the election, and encourages voters to turn out early. I live in a county that opens the polls on the weekend at least one week and opens late hours a couple other times to ensure everyone has an opportunity to vote. They go to the nursing home and the treatment and detention facility to make sure every eligible person has his or her opportunity to express their opinions. Is that why people didn’t rock the vote hard? Choosing between earning money to feed your family versus voting is a decision that a lot of people have to weigh. And I wouldn’t want to have to make that choice.

I know people have busy lives, especially this time of year. The Halloween to Christmas rush is like a landslide of events that we all get sucked up in. But we only have the opportunity to pick the figurehead of our nation once every four years. We are stuck with a person for four whole years. And if every person who is thinking their vote doesn’t matter HAD cast a vote—well, that would have had monumental results.

We, as a nation, have had poor voter turnout for years. There are so many angry people out there right now—Republican, Democrat, and Independent. We should have addressed it before the primary (which had even worse turnout), yet here we are. And it could have been solved by a seemingly passive act. Voting. Just filling in bubbles.

The fact is, though, that young people are watching. My kids. Your kids. Neighborhood kids. And when we don’t vote, they see. When we tell them “My vote doesn’t matter because of the electoral college,” or “So and so is going to win anyway,” they lose hope. They become jaded. And then we end up with very bad options for presidential candidates. We influence our kids. And if nothing else matters, THAT does.

If not for your world, for your kids’ worlds. Just turn in a ballot. Show them it matters, because it does.

Feature image via Facebook

Sarah Pearce

Sarah Elizabeth Pearce is a journalist in west central Illinois. She's a mother, wife, daughter, and sister. She's working to bring an arts council to life in her community in her spare time (that is, the time she's not chasing around an energetic son and playful dog). Whenever she isn't writing - she is cooking, cleaning, or crocheting.