In case you have somehow missed it with everything else going on, this year is an election year here in the United States.
That means that most of us are bombarded by political advertisements and commercials for both candidates, alongside nearly relentless campaigns that encourage us to get out and vote. These campaigns are important, as they provide one avenue for direct education and engagement for voters. In fact, basketball great Shaquille O’Neal knows all about voting campaigns and what a difference they can make.
Shaquille recently revealed that this year he voted for the first time at age 48.
He shared the news in an episode of his podcast, The Big Podcast With Shaq, and he even explained why he waited this long to vote. He also described what the process of filling out his absentee ballot was like.
He shared that he voted because he doesn’t ever want to be a hypocrite, which is definitely something to be celebrated: “You know I always like being honest on my podcast. I’ve never voted before, America. But now I’m doing all these voting campaigns, and you know one thing I never like to do is be a hypocrite. In other words, America, I voted for the first time, and it feels good.“
His cohost, John Kincade, was surprised that Shaquille had never voted before now, but Shaquille explained that he didn’t really understand the electoral college system. He also cited the 2016 election as a game changer, since candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (meaning more Americans voted for her) but still lost the election due to what many say is an outdated system.
He really brings up an excellent point. Many people feel that the electoral college is outdated, and voters have been repeatedly frustrated when the candidate chosen by the people doesn’t end up winning the election. The system was created all the way back in 1788, when Americans lived in a remarkably different way than we do now.
The biggest reason the electoral college was set up was because the men who are credited with founding the United States were really anxious about letting the public cast their votes. In general, most Americans didn’t achieve high levels of education. On top of that, many people in the United States weren’t even allowed to vote, including Black Americans and women. The electoral college was established as a gatekeeping measure — through it, the landowning wealthy elite group of white men who ran the country could make sure they approved anyone who obtained office at the highest level.
These days, the original reason the electoral college was set up just doesn’t hold weight. As voters have demonstrated for decades, Americans are well-informed about their candidates and eager to vote in a way that demonstrates that knowledge. It’s also pretty odd that ultimately, who wins an election can come down to the votes of 538 people who are expected to vote along party lines versus the 300+ million people who live in the United States.
While there have been calls to get rid of the electoral college, the process would be challenging. For starters, the Constitution would have to be amended. Of course, that’s been done over and over again, as the United States has slowly progressed toward a more equitable reality for each of its citizens. Removing the electoral college would be another one of those steps.
Shaquille didn’t share who he voted for in the 2020 election, which is his right. Earlier this year, he signed on to participate in Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote campaign. The campaign’s goal is to make sure more Americans are registered to vote in this year’s election and in elections going forward. In July, Shaquille noted that “Everyone needs to go out and vote, period.”
There’s a lot at stake in this year’s election. For starters, the United States, like the rest of the world, has been caught up in the grips of the global health crisis. It can be argued that the American response to the virus has been less than great, especially since more than 200,000 Americans have died from the virus since March 2020.
The election could provide Americans with an alternative path that could hopefully provide some stability in terms of combating the virus. There are examples out there of countries that have managed to do just that, like New Zealand.
Many Americans are also clamoring for genuine, sustained change in terms of the racial violence that is perpetuated in this country, often by members of the law enforcement community. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Jonathan Price have weighed on the hearts and minds of many Americans. A lot of people are angry, hurt, and scared. This has been made more complex by a national government that hasn’t done a good job at addressing the bigotry that is so often at the center of these cases.
Further, many people are worried that democracy — the foundation of American life — could crumble as a result of the 2020 election. Truly, many see this election as a referendum on everything that the country has endured over the last three to four years. The election will result in either a validation of those experiences or a direct and clear repudiation.
One thing is clear: Americans are energized and motivated to vote this year. Over 9 million Americans have already voted. Many analysts also expect the total number of voters to be record-setting this year, with some speculating that up to 65% of Americans will turn up to vote by Election Day.
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