Voting is Your Currency:

Stephanie Vance If you saw twenty dollars on the ground and, after the requisite due diligence decided that it was unclaimed, you’d pick it up, right? I know I would and, come on, you would as well. And yet every election cycle millions of Americans throw something far more valuable away: their vote.

To demonstrate the value of your vote, I decided to correlate it to something we can all relate to, specifically cold hard cash. No, I’m not talking about exchanging your vote for money: not only is that illegal, but few people would offer you anywhere near what your vote is worth. Let me show you what I mean:

The U.S. Federal budget for 2004 was approximately 2.4 trillion dollars. This budget is, perhaps, the single most important thing that your elected officials work on year-in, year-out on your behalf. These aren’t just numbers on a page – these budget dollars represent real spending on real programs that may (or may not) be important to you.

That said, the budget for FY04 translates into approximately $8,145 for each of the 294,619,143 million people in the United States. For the 193 million eligible to vote, one could argue that their votes are worth about $12,435 per person (the overall federal pie divided by the number eligible to vote). For those 128 million that actually registered in 2002, their votes could arguably be worth $18,750 per person, whereas the 89 million who voted can lay claim to $29,966 per person.

Perhaps more striking, let’s look at the 2000 election. In Florida, a mere 537 votes made the difference. That’s $4.5 billion per person. Or to take this analogy to its logical end, the votes of five Supreme Court justices were worth $480 billion each. Your vote may not be worth $480 billion, but how much is it worth? A lot more than the $20 you’d find on the street.

“But Stephanie,” you’re thinking, “this isn’t a very good analogy. As citizens we don’t actually get that money, nor do we have much influence over how it is spent.” Well, if I thought that was true, I wouldn’t spend half my life on airplanes flying around the country teaching people how to be effective advocates. With enough time, persistence, know-how and, yes, good luck, you can have some influence over how that money is spent (you can find some great resources on just how to do that on our website, Be sure to also check out our FREE advocacy class at Think about this way -- you sure won’t have any influence at all if you never let your elected officials know what you think. And the first step in that process is voting.

If you’re not going to buy that argument, let me try my last and most powerful argument: no voting, no whining. Frankly, it is as inappropriate and useless to complain about not winning the lottery after you refuse to buy a ticket as it is to complain about the actions of your elected leaders after refusing to vote in the elections.

Just as money is your currency in the exchange of goods, your vote is your currency in the exchange of democratic ideas. Use it wisely, use it well and, most important, don’t hoard it.

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