As the midterm elections quickly approach, I’m getting a little tired of numbers. Everyday it seems like there’s more and more numbers: 425 house seats open, 73 competitive races, 35 open Senate seats, 52.8% disapproval rating for Trump, 250,000 new jobs, the numbers are constant and everchanging: it’s exhausting.
The numbers I find most draining are the ones that are about me: only 47% of Asian-Americans will vote (and only 31% will receive personalized voter outreach), only 40% of 18-29 year olds will vote, or is it 33% (and don’t even get me started on the 42% who ‘can’t even’ according to a recent cringe-inducing USA Today article).
I grew up in the purple swing state of Colorado, but my hometown was the ruby red to Boulder’s bright blue. Save unanimous House votes, my representative has never voted in a way that represents me, and my vote for Obama in my first presidential election in 2012 was swallowed by the Romney votes of the city. Additionally, being a minority in a homogenous town in Colorado only contributed to a feeling of alienation with politics, my elected officials, political discourse in general, and my ability to create change.
So when I hear the wash of numbers over me and the deluge of other statistics, it is no wonder they make me feel a bit blurry. It feels like my personal decisions, the lives of other Americans, and my ballot are being evaporated into a political cloud that exists way beyond me. And, as cynical as it sounds, I know that this is how a lot of political factions want me to feel. America doesn’t empower voters in education, in polling locations, or in accessibility. We actually know that some political factions actively disempowers voters though gerrymandering and stringent voter ID laws. The people in power are just fine with me thinking that I’m powerless. In fact, it might just benefit them if I am too apathetic or too jaded to vote.
These numbers make us forget that we are individual (human) actors who are voting for real individuals that will have real world consequences. So, I am reminding myself that I am not just a number. I am personalizing my votes by doing research on every candidate to see them as fully as I can. I am not letting the political jargon get to me and using the amazing resources that are out there to help me make sense of my ballot. I, despite our political machine regularly trying to make me feel helpless, do have power. I cannot afford to be complacent. I cannot afford not to believe in the American voting system, because at this moment it’s the core of our power, and I’m going to be a part of it.