The question as to whether voting matters is a difficult one to answer. In the main, voters do get to let their voices be heard through the act of voting. Depending upon what you vote on, your vote may matter more or less. For instance, a vote cast for a Presidential candidate who has already essentially won an election, may not matter as much as votes that were cast earlier in the day before a clear winner was determined. On the other hand, votes can be so close, that each vote can matter immensely.
In the US, in most cases, you must be registered to vote. The only state in which registration is not required is North Dakota. But voter registration totals can reveal a lot about how much people think votes matter. Less than half of the population eligible to vote is registered. In huge elections like general elections for the presidency, voter turnout even among registered voters can make a difference.
In 2004, for instance, only about 85% of registered voters cast a vote, and total votes cast represented only approximately half of the citizens who could have voted. Given the close elections of both 2000 and 2004, not voting clearly mattered. A few more voters registered in each state could have changed election outcome.
While we often think of voting as it relates to big elections, there are many local, regional or state elections where voting really does matter. A proposed law, measure, or tax may be defeated or passed in a direct fashion through the voter. Failing to vote on such measures can affect the degree to which you like what your state or local government is doing. Another way in which a vote can matter is if you are voting for government representatives, either to your state or to the federal government. Generally, you look for those representatives that most closely share your views.
Of course, your vote does not mean that a representative will always represent your views. This is why it is well to continue to exercise your option to vote, and to contact representatives when they seem to be acting in ways opposite to the positions for which you supported them. You can also vote for other representatives when the current representative’s term is up, especially if you feel inadequately represented by an elected official.
Voting also doesn’t mean that your candidate or your position will always win. But failing to vote means that you create greater opportunity for candidates or positions you support to lose, and you create more chance that candidates or ideas you don’t support will win. This is probably the most important part of exercising your right to vote. You opt out of the entire political process when you don’t, and you lose the opportunity of allowing your thoughts and opinions to hold sway.
Though this is not always the case, the ability to vote is envied in many countries where the people are given no say in the way a country is run. They are victims of the decisions of a government, without ever having a chance to be full participants in those decisions. This can create extraordinary crisis at times, such as when victims of the 2008 Myanmar cyclone saw ships carrying relief from other countries turned back, condemning some of these people to death or extreme deprivation and starvation. It’s thus wise to consider whether you really want to give up the right to vote, and let the government make all its decisions without regard to your opinion.