Each year since 1947 the VFW has held what is known as the Voice of Democracy essay contest. Each year more than 40,000 students take part in the contest competing for scholarship funds. The Voice of Democracy is open to students in Grades 9-12.

The Redwood VFW held a contest locally and announced the winners at the Veterans Day program in Redwood Falls.

The winners from Redwood Valley High School were: Victoria Jorgenson, first place, Alexcia Nelson, second place and McKenzie Wertish, third place.

The theme for this year’s contest was “Why My Vote Matters.”

What follows is the winning essay written by Victoria Jorgenson.

Why My Vote Matters

Hundreds of elections have taken place in American history, all with hundreds of votes and hundreds of different results. So, one may think, that among all these votes and check marks in boxes on millions of ballots, that their vote does not matter. After all, it takes a group to change anything, right? Wrong. 

In a 2017 Virginia House of Delegates race, one that would determine whether or not Republicans would remain in control of the chamber, this was not the case. However, the turnout in that election was less than 50 percent. After the initial count on election night, Republican David Yancey was ten votes ahead of Democratic Shelly Simonds. While the recount was occurring, Simons claimed eleven more votes, putting her exactly one vote ahead. Of course, this is not the case in every election, but this goes to show that just one vote can make a difference.

In the past, soldiers fought for the right to vote the way that we wanted to and the privilege to be able to say what we want without fear that we could be punished for feeling a certain way or believing in a certain cause. Thousands of people have put their lives down for the rights that we take for granted in modern day America. In many countries across the world, people are deprived of their right to have personal opinions and beliefs, especially political ones.

The United States of America prides itself on being a democratic society and these rights were hard-won. People over the age of eighteen were not given the right to vote until the twenty sixth amendment was passed, which was in 1971. We have the ability to change the future, as we are the people of tomorrow. If we don’t show appreciation towards voting, it would be difficult to see to it that our voting rights are protected.

If these rights were taken away, it is likely that our privilege to vote, a way we can show our voice, would be passed to the higher powers in the government, not kept with the people. In 2016 fifty-five percent of eligible voters voted. If the forty-five percent that didn’t formed their own party, they could win every election. That’s a terrifying thought for America and its future.

Voters between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine account for half of the voting population. Which means young voters can really make a large difference, even if they don’t think they can. The fewer people in this age group that vote means that less people get to directly influence issues that will affect them and their lives in the future. Today, it’s easier than it was in the past to be educated in politics.

Between the news, social media, and the internet, it’s hard not to see political news on the typical day. There’s no excuse for not voting because you don’t know enough about the candidates. Therefore, just one vote does matter, and we truly should exercise all the freedoms we were given in today’s America.