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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Voting in the presidential election is a privilege — exercise it.

A student fills out his ballot at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church polling location on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

Only 13.8 percent of registered North Carolina voters showed out to vote in 2023 municipal elections. Voting allows each individual to elect officials who will make decisions that impact their own lives and those around them, and it is a staple of American democracy – yet most people don't engage with politics.

With the upcoming 2024 presidential election most likely sporting two objectionable candidates — current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump — many people said they won’t be voting. Forty-nine percent of people aged 18-to-29 say they definitely will. That's eight percentage points down from the 2020 election. This statement is detrimental not only to democracy but also to the people who implemented policies will affect most.

Consciously choosing not to participate in politics — whether it be voting or simply discussing it — demonstrates immense privilege.

In general, Americans are discouraged by the state of national politics, with 30 percent of people saying that they dislike both the Republican and Democratic parties — a record high. Only 16 percent of adults in America said they trusted the federal government, which is among the lowest levels in 70 years of polling.

This distrust of the national government can be traced back to a lack of quality candidates and elected officials, which can mainly be improved by an increase in voter turnout.

Some Americans said that they don’t keep up with politics or don’t care who’s running, but those are the statements that show privilege the most.

Being able to not care about the affairs around you shows that the decisions being made don’t affect you as much as they do others. It shows a lack of understanding of their impacts on other Americans.

The presidential options this year might not be the best — with each candidate being way over the average retirement age and one being charged with 91 criminal offenses — but acting aloof toward the outcome of the election is not the answer.

Rather than focusing on the candidates, a better approach would be to focus on their platforms and the goals they hope to achieve in office – like deciding whether to prioritize a candidate who supports an extremely deadly border along the southern states of the U.S. or one who supports a reformation of the immigration system

Ignoring issues because they are hard to hear is not a good reason to be disengaged with them. Not having discussions about certain issues is a choice many are not able to have, and these affairs impact others far more than the slight discomfort you might feel discussing them.

Some Americans are uncomfortable discussing the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza because they do not want to seem uninformed or damage relationships, but it is discussions like these that promote understanding and facilitate change.

State politics are also often indirectly influenced by national issues, further emphasizing the importance of caring about national elections. State governments are the ones who decide abortion and reproductive laws. This was not true, though, until the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned the protection to have an abortion under the Constitution.

In addition to the presidential election, elections for North Carolina governor, lieutenant governor, North Carolina Supreme Court justices and over a dozen more positions are happening this year, meaning voting (specifically state-wide) is especially important this election season.

With Gov. Roy Cooper being ineligible to run for governor again, the party in power could switch, causing several policy changes for the state — including those concerning reproductive rights. Democratic Justice Michael Morgan is also not returning to his position, opening the way for Republicans to take a 6-1 majority on our state’s Supreme Court.

Many Americans don’t have ready access to political information, so if you have the resources to stay informed and participate, you should, if not for yourself, for those underrepresented parties.

Staying informed and participating in elections positively impacts American democracy and the lives of everyone in America, and it widens your perspective on matters and the world in general. Abstaining from the discussion and participation in politics shows privilege and complacency more than anything else.

Privilege and complacency are personal feelings, but their influence on your voting habits impacts all Americans.

@dthopinion |

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