How to Respond When Someone Says ‘My Vote Doesn't Matter’

vote cat

We’re less than a month out from the 2020 election, and voting has never—in our lifetime—been this important. But despite the pleas from everyone from politicians to Paul Rudd, many of us know at least one person who’s still reluctant to make their voice heard. Here’s what to say to a friend, family member or acquaintance who insists ‘My vote doesn’t matter.’ (Beyond, ‘It definitely does.’)

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1. First, listen to why they don’t want to vote

Not only is it respectful to hear their side of the story, knowing where they’re coming from is super important when it comes to convincing them to change their mind. If they’re not voting because the whole process seems like a hassle, let them know how they can streamline it; if they’re wary of the entire democratic process, take a more personalized approach. Especially if you’re someone who votes in every single election like clockwork, hearing that someone you care about thinks the whole thing is stupid can be really frustrating. Still, it’s important to stay cool, collected and non-judgmental: Blowing up at your friend about how they’re making a huge mistake is a surefire way to get them not to vote.

2. Help them get started

Like doing your taxes, the whole process of registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot can seem daunting. The thing is, it’s really not. If you’re speaking to someone who’s hesitant to vote because they can’t be bothered with all the steps it takes to get there, help them through the whole ordeal. One great resources is the #VoteReady website, which lets you register as a new voter, check your current voter registration and request an absentee ballot in under two minutes.

3. Focus on local elections

Maybe your cousin isn’t voting because their ideal candidate for president didn’t make it onto the ballot. If someone is bummed out by both presidential candidates, remind them that November 3 is about more than who will live in the White House for the next four years. We’re voting for state senators and representatives, sheriffs, local judges, school board and more. Respectfully remind them that many of those positions have the potential to affect your life on a day-to-day basis much more than the president does. If they’re not sure who’s running locally, direct them to Ballotpedia, where they can easily find out.

4. Remind them that voting matters even if they don’t live in a swing state

‘New York is always going to vote blue—what does it matter if one more person votes Democratic?’ A common thought among non-voters is that unless they live in a hotly contested state, it doesn’t matter whether or not they vote. That’s not true. Here’s how Hannah McCarthy, author of A User’s Guide to Democracy: How America Works, explained it to Vice: “[Even] if your one vote isn't going to sway an election, what it is doing is contributing to the number of your demographic,” she said. “So ‘x number of Latinx voters between the ages of 18 and 25 turn out in x county in Wisconsin.’ You are adding yourself to that number, and the larger that demographic turnout ends up being, that is who those politicians are going to cater to.”

5. Tell them why You vote

Many people who don’t think their vote matters are wary of the entire system, and view politicians—and regular folks urging them to vote—as pushy and insincere. Instead of hounding them with questions about why they aren’t voting (which could be perceived as aggressive), open up about your personal reasons for doing so. Rather than hitting them with the blanket statement that ‘It just matters,’ bring up specifics. Here are a few examples:

  • ‘I’m voting because I support the Black Lives Matter movement, and I want to ensure that real change happens from the ground up.’
  • ‘I’m voting because, as an LGBTQIA+ person, I want to make sure the rights that queer people before me fought so hard to get aren’t taken away.’
  • ‘I’m voting because I don’t want my nieces and nephews to have to worry about school shooters.’
  • ‘I’m voting because there are so many people in this country who haven’t been afforded the privileges that I have, and I want to use my privilege to support them by voting in their interest.’

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...