Voting isn’t a right everyone gets to exercise — yet around the world, people still pass up the opportunity to make their voices heard.
From systemic barriers to distrust in the system and logistical roadblocks, everyday citizens miss the chance to cast their ballots in critical elections.
During the 2022 midterm elections in the US on Nov. 8, voters will elect the representatives, senators, governors, and local officials who best reflect their communities’ values and needs. But the US, which historically has among the lowest voter turnouts across the world’s democracies, typically sees a steep voting dropoff in midterm elections compared to presidential elections.
Ahead of Election Day, celebrities on the red carpet at Global Citizen Festival: NYC, which marked the 10th anniversary of the festival in Central Park on Sept. 24, weighed in on the importance of voting this year.
Everyone from science educator Bill Nye to actress and Global Citizen Ambassador Rachel Brosnahan shared with us and our partner HeadCount why they vote, and why they feel it’s important to participate in democracy. Their reasons ranged from honoring family legacies to protecting freedoms currently under threat.
1. Amber Ruffin, Comedian, Writer & Talk Show Host
“It’s important to vote because our rights are being taken away. So, if you like waking up whenever you want or dating who you want to date, or having whatever job you feel like, you should vote — because it doesn’t seem like those things are in danger now, but they are. It’s coming.
“My culture plays a role in exercising my right to vote because people died so I could, so it really does feel like a waste to not vote. And it’s a very easy way for your parents to guilt you into voting. They started early, and now I feel guilty and I vote all the time.”
2. Angélique Kidjo, Grammy Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter
“You cannot complain about something that’s not right if you don’t vote. You can’t say, ‘I want this, I need this, this is my right,’when you don’t vote because if you don’t vote, whatever impacts your life, you let it happen to you. You want things to change, vote until you see the society you want to live in and be part of the building of that society.
“It’s easy to be angry, it's easy to be hateful, it's easy to say ‘they,’ not counting you in it, but that doesn’t change anything. It makes your life more miserable because you’re not playing a part in anything that is happening in the world.
“If we want to live in a society where we call ourselved evolved human, voting is one of those things. There are places on this planet where people have never voted. Never. They don’t even know what it means ... And nothing is more important than letting people be free to choose who they want to vote for and what they want to do.”
3. Bill Nye, Science Educator
“Vote, everybody! If you're too young to vote, make sure the grown-ups in your life vote and take the environment into account when you vote.
“We've got to get people to participate, not let people who are just interested in power to run things. You want people who want to make the world fair.
“When I was a kid, I grew up in the city of Washington, DC. My parents could not vote for the president. Citizens of the District of Columbia could not vote until 1964. And both of my parents were veterans of World War II. They had paid their dues for this country. My mother was a lieutenant in the Navy. My dad was a prisoner of war for four years, and that was a huge deal when they could vote. They were so excited in 1964. Then the Vietnam War was going on and a guy my age could not vote. But then they made, we made, the voting age 18 and I could vote and I jumped on it. It used to be we would expect you to go to war and give your life for the country, but you couldn't vote. But that's changed. Voting is your power as a citizen.
“It all adds up. It happens every year. Some elections are won by 12,000 votes out of 12 million. You've got to be part of it. Where are the other million votes coming from? They come from somebody. So get in there.”
4. Billy Porter, Actor, Singer & LGBTQ+ Advocate
“Voting is the only tool we have and this may be the last time. So, do what you want but democracy is at stake. Humanity is at stake. Vote, period.
“I’m first-generation post-civil rights movement, and when I was younger, the polls were at schools, were at neighborhood rec centers. It was a day off from school. It was much easier — it was a pseudo-holiday, especially for students. And so my mother would … We didn’t have a day off, though. I couldn’t sleep in. I would wake up, we would have the morning breakfast, and then I’d walk with her to the rec center down the street and watch her vote. It’s just in me. It's in my blood, it’s inside of me. I don't know anything else and I’m grateful for that.”
5. Elladj Baldé, Figure Skater & Global Citizen Champion of Change
“I was 18 [when I first voted]. I think as soon as I was allowed to, I went with my dad and mom and voted, and I’ve voted ever since.
"My dad’s from Africa; my mom is from Russia. In Africa, at least in my dad’s country, in Guinea, there’s not a lot of choices. There's not really an opportunity to have a say in who is going to lead the country. And so, being in a country where you do have a say, it’s extremely important to do that.”
6. Folake Olowofoyeku, Actress & Musician
“I come from a culture where you’re sometimes subjugated as a young person. But I think it’s important to hear the voices of the young ones, because what they think matters.”
7. Jay Shetty, Purpose Coach & Chief Purpose Officer at Calm
“I think voting is important because it’s something we’ve all been given a gift to do. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to actually take responsibility for finding leaders, choosing people who can actually make a difference inside the places we live. I see it as a gift, I see it as a privilege, and as an amazing opportunity we all have. I think it felt like, ‘Oh, now my voice really matters, now I can actually make a difference.’
“For me, it’s the fact that my parents came to England as immigrants. My mom was 16 when she moved there and to see the life they built and the opportunities they gave us, and them feeling support from the government was a huge part of that. I think it's the same for us — our parents were given opportunities and we want to make opportunities for other people.”
8. Victoria De Angelis, Bassist of MÅNESKIN
“It’s a thing just everyone should try to talk about more, and even with friends or family. Try to make your own ideas and make your own future.”
9. Damiano David, Lead Singer of MÅNESKIN
“It’s a right that we have but it’s also a duty somehow, because we have the responsibility to choose who’s going to govern us.”
10. Rachel Brosnahan, Actress & Global Citizen Ambassador
“Most people can’t make a change to fight these enormous issues that our country is facing. But when we all do a little bit, we can make a lot happen. So, every single vote works toward using our voices to let our leaders know what our priorities are.”
11. Sofia Carson, Actress, Singer & UNICEF Ambassador
“I was raised biculturally. I was born in the states, the daughter of immigrants, very proudly so. And I think I need to be represented in those that I vote for and that my rights are protected. And also it’s a big part of what makes this country what this country is. It’s a country of immigrants from all around the world and we need to be represented, and our vote is our way of doing that.”
12. Tamron Hall, Broadcast Journalist & Talk Show Host
“I’m an African American. My grandfather was born in 1901, a sharecropper who could not read who lived under the oppression of Jim Crow laws. My mother is a Black woman in America, born in 1950, who couldn’t attend the white schools in her community. It is obvious but important and a reminder of why we need to vote.”
Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to engage young Americans to check their voting status, register, and vote. Through the work of this groundbreaking nonpartisan collaboration, we’re activating young people to get involved and spark change in their communities by expressing opinions at the ballot box. Learn how to register to vote, volunteer, and take action right now!