This weekend, I volunteered to support Barack Obama and call voters in Virginia -- one of the battleground states in the presidential election -- to help encourage people to head to the polls on Tuesday. This is the most important election of our time, an election where we can either choose to continue down a path of corruption, massive war debt and a growing fear of a global economic downturn or we can elect to make a change. A McCain win may take our country in a different direction, but likely will follow the path of the last eight years. An Obama win will, hopefully, lead our country in a direction of change, toward a rebirth of America. That's why I called people this weekend; I believe it is every American's responsibility to head to the polls and make their voice heard. Not only is it a responsibility, but it's also an honor.
So it shocked me when I called an 80-year-old registered voter in Virginia. When the woman who answered informed me the man wasn't home, I asked her if she was planning to vote. Surprisingly, almost adamantly, she said no. I asked her why and explained that we all have the right to choose the direction we want our country to head. This woman, who sounded old enough to have voted countless times, responded that she has never voted and wasn't voting on Tuesday. "I just don't vote," she said. She seemed annoyed that I would ask her about this. To me, I just can't understand why anyone able to vote wouldn't exercise that right.
In 2004, more than 215 million people were eligible to vote in that year's presidential election, however only a little more than half that number turned up at the polls to make their voice heard. This year, the number of eligible voters has jumped to about 230 million -- and early voting results have indicated this election could turn out the largest number of voters in U.S. history. So why would anyone choose to not be in that group?
What is it that causes someone to elect or not to elect his or her officials, to select the person who best represents how they feel on the issues? Three weeks ago I voted early in Chicago. As I ticked the boxes on the new electronic voting machine, I overheard a woman (who looked to be in her late 30s) tell one of the polling place volunteers that it was the first time she was voting. Ever. In her life. I'm glad she was participating in this election, but what caused her to stay away all this time? Personally, there aren't many things that make me as proud as walking out of a polling place after I vote.
So please, go vote. We have the power to choose who will lead us for the next four years. Whether that's Obama (hopefully) or McCain, you have to make a choice. You can either choose to stay home (or at the office or the mall) and ignore one of your most powerful rights in this country. Or you can choose to head to the polls on Tuesday and select the man who will be the next leader of the free world. What will you choose?