By Morgan Cohen
What makes people decide to vote?
I haven’t been able to get that question out of my mind since I joined my dad on a business trip to Europe this summer. In Berlin I had the pleasure of meeting two very different men who had one thing in common: Each chose not to vote on an important decision for his native country.
One of the men was born and raised in London and moved to Israel 13 years ago. The Brexit vote had just occurred, and though he was still a British citizen, he said he didn’t vote because he didn’t feel that he should help make such an important decision for a country he loves but doesn’t live in.
The other man is from New York but splits his time between the United States and Israel. He said he doesn’t plan to vote in the U.S. presidential election because he doesn’t live in New York full time and doesn’t care much for either candidate.
At 14, I am too young to vote in our national elections, but during every presidential election, my school gives us the opportunity to vote in a mock election. Everyone votes on the same day at different times, and the winner is announced at the end of the day.
Four years ago, it was the Obama-Romney election. My sister and I both had dentist appointments the day of the election, and when we arrived at school, we were told that our classes had already voted. We had a choice: Vote or return to our classes so that we wouldn’t miss any more schoolwork.
We debated whether it was worth it; after all, we were only two people. But we concluded that the presidential election comes around only every four years, so we were eager to vote. My sister and I both voted for Barack Obama and returned to class.
At the end of that school day, the counts were released, and President Obama won by one vote. If my sister and I had passed up the opportunity to vote, Mitt Romney would have become the presidential winner of our school.
We were astonished by the news and couldn’t believe we had even questioned whether our vote counted. I remember this story every time I question whether my voice counts and whether every vote matters.
One other thing this summer reminded me how every voice can make a difference. I was required to read three books this summer, and I chose “I Am Malala” for one of them.
I learned that in countries like Pakistan, women are underprivileged and underappreciated. Pakistani women don’t have the right to vote (and because Pakistan is such a conflict-filled country, it is sometimes difficult for men to vote). If all those women could vote, I’m certain it would make a difference in how they are treated and whether their country would become freer and more inclusive.
After finishing “I Am Malala,” I realize that the privilege we have in my country is something many countries don’t allow. Voting in Pakistan is a struggle; voting in the United States or England is a privilege open to all (once we reach a certain age).
This makes me think back to the two men I met in Berlin and how they didn’t feel that they should contribute to big decisions. If you are given the special and, in some countries, rare opportunity to have a say in the future of your birthplace, why not seize it?
I am too young to vote, but if I could, I wouldn’t think twice about it. Some decisions are too important to sit out.
So here is a request from this 14-year-old girl who wishes she could vote: Even if you feel it’s not your place to contribute to a big decision, if you have the right to vote, please take advantage of it. Every decision matters, and every voice counts.