The Importance of Your Vote

In this year’s presidential election, at least 160 million Americans have cast their votes for their preferred candidate, resulting in the highest voter turnout in over a century.

Prior to the election, experts predicted the number of votes to clock in at a total of 150 million votes, nearly 12 million more than the voter turnout in 2016. However, they quickly realized just how much they underestimated this year’s voter turnout after seeing the number of votes hit 70% of the total voter turnout in 2016 before Election Day alone.

Why did so many people vote this year? 

“A lot of people are unhappy with the current leadership, but a lot of people also want to maintain this leadership,” said Vega Spring, a student from Great Neck South High School.

Unfortunately, this also means that voter turnout is irregular. 

A graph showing the statistics of the voter turnouts from 1789 to 2012. Over the past century, voter turnout has only ranged from around 50% to 63%, meaning that in every election in the past century, more than a third of eligible voters didn’t vote. (Credit: United States Elections Project)

“Voting is important because we are given the chance to participate in our democracy, have a say in our future and how we want our country to be run,” Spring said. “That’s why more people need to vote. To make a difference.”

All of this raises a serious question: How do you vote?

As of today, the most common minimum voting age requirement in the United States is 18. However, in New York, high school students can pre-register to vote once they turn 16. By doing so, they will automatically be registered to vote once they turn 18, and many teenagers have already signed up today.

Once you are legally allowed to vote, you can register to vote either online, by mail, or in person. This year, the deadline was Oct. 9 in New York, while absentee ballots by mail, which were originally for people who couldn’t vote in person, stopped taking requests on Oct. 27. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, absentee ballots could be requested by anyone in this election, and the votes from said people had to be submitted by Nov. 3. 

This year, mail-in ballots were much more common because of the coronavirus. However, many people still voted in person on Election Day, with a record number of 101 million people casting their votes early in-person. Early voting this year in New York took place between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1, which voters took advantage of due to there being no requirements or registration needed for early voting.

An image showing the line at early voting locations. The lines for early voting were so long that people had to wait several hours to be able to vote. (Credit:

So then, what is the best way to vote?

There is no correct answer to that question. While early voting guarantees that your vote will be counted later, votes in-person are counted live for the public, and early votes are counted after everyone has voted in person with the mail-in ballots. On the other hand, mail-in ballots are the safer option during the pandemic, so this is understandably the preferred choice this year. The only downside to this option is that many mail-in ballots get rejected because they either arrive too late or arrive with mistakes in them.

However, the most important advice to keep in mind is to vote. For nearly every election, around 30% to 50% of the people who are eligible to vote don’t register, which skews the results of every U.S. presidential election dramatically. Previous statistics show that an estimated 257 million people in the U.S. are eligible to vote. If 161 million people voted this year, then there are still 96 million people who could’ve voted throughout the country. In other words, almost 37% of adults in the U.S. have not voted in just this rough estimate alone. How can such statistics be considered an accurate representation of the U.S.?

Every single vote counts. Use yours wisely.