By Greg Jackson, Esq.
A few days ago, I found myself in an Apopka-area chain drug store speaking to a young man about a number of topics: sports, school, music, and then somehow the conversation turned to politics. After expressing his displeasure with the outcome of the most recent elections, the young man said, "it doesn't matter to me anyway, because I don't vote."
I was a bit taken aback by his nonchalant, matter-of-fact way of admitting to me that he willingly gave up a right that so many fought and died for. But, I resisted the urge to say what was truly on my mind and simply asked "why not?" The young man expressed a view that far too many young people are taking in this age and told me that he didn't vote because he felt his vote did not matter and would not have counted. He told me that he would not vote until he knew his vote would put who he wanted in office and accomplished what was important to him.
It was at that moment that I realized what the true problem may be with young voters or those who turn their backs on the political process. Aside from being turned off by the tactics and antics of some political groups and candidates who only come around during election time to pander for votes, many young people view their votes as this mystical-thing that can grant wishes. They feel that their singular vote should be able to put people with their ideas in office. They feel that their vote should change overnight the condition of entire communities. They feel that their vote should entitle them to make all the ills of the world disappear and life will be as easy as pie.
But, in actuality a vote is quite simply a formal expression of opinion or choice, either positive or negative, made by an individual or body of individuals. It is a right and privilege bestowed upon all eligible citizens of this great Country of ours. A vote is a very personal thing that is not to be wasted, compromised or taken advantage of. A vote is not a magic wand that you wave to create a better life; it is, however, a mechanism through which change has been brought about. The best we can hope for is that we live in a society where a collection of likeminded people see things (i.e., issues, candidates etc.) the same way and their collective voices will come together to bring about change. Whether good, bad or indifferent we have seen what singular voices coming together can do in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
To those who are reluctant to vote, what I say is this, always cast a vote, express yourself through this process. The fact that people try to control communities by controlling votes should be an indication of its importance. But what makes a vote important is not that it can be controlled. What makes a vote important is that it is uniquely and distinctly yours to express how you want to shape society. Your vote is an extension of you and is your contribution to becoming an agent of change for the greater good of all. The worst thing you could ever do is silence yourself by failing to vote; even if things don't turn out how you want them to, at least you can say you expressed yourself.
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.