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Vote, damn it!

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 7:00 AM EST, Sun November 4, 2012
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, order food at a Wendy's restuarant in Richmond Heights, Ohio, on Tuesday. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, order food at a Wendy's restuarant in Richmond Heights, Ohio, on Tuesday.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: We have one of the lowest voter turnout rates among wealthy countries
  • Obeidallah: You'd better vote! Decisions made by elected officials really impact your life
  • He says even a few votes can make a difference in deciding which candidate wins
  • Obeidallah: We should create more incentives for people to cast their ballot

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- You'd better vote! I really want to channel my inner Samuel L. Jackson and use some truly descriptive words to convey my feelings and "strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger," but instead, I will do my best to take "the path of the righteous man."

Why vote? What does it matter? Politicians are all the same. I don't like any of them.

We have all heard these reasons from those who don't vote. In the midterm election of 2010, only about 41% of those eligible to vote actually voted. We have one of the lowest voter turnout rates among the wealthy countries in the world. Even North Korea had a voter turnout of 54% in 2012. When we are losing in voter turnout to a country that isn't even considered a democracy, you know something is really screwed up.

I don't want to give you clich├ęd arguments on why you should vote. We all know them. It's your civic duty as a citizen. Others have sacrificed so that you can vote. There are people in the world literally dying for the right to vote.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Opinion: Why I vote, and you should too

As valid as these reasons are, clearly they aren't enough to inspire many Americans to engage in the electoral process. So here's what I have to say: If you don't think the decisions made by elected officials impact your daily life, you are either uniformed or in denial. Either way, wake the f#%^ up!

Laws and regulations enacted by our elected officials affect our lives in meaningful ways. Whether it's health insurance coverage, equal pay for women, tax rates, disaster preparedness or zoning rules in your community, you can be sure that you will feel the effect of good or bad government policies.

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Bottom line: This election is not about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, or Democrats and Republicans. It's about how you and your family will fare because of the policies put in place by our politicians.

And here's the remarkable thing about our presidential elections: Even a few votes can make a difference in deciding which candidate wins.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the state of Florida by 537 votes, giving him the electoral votes needed to capture the White House. That's it: 537 people. There are probably more Kardashians on TV shows than that.

Amazingly, some governor and U.S. Senate races have been decided by even fewer votes. In 2008, Al Franken won his U.S. Senate seat by 312 votes. And in 2004, the governor's race in Washington state was decided by 133 votes -- 133 people! You probably have more Facebook friends or Twitter followers than that.

And if you're a contrarian by nature, maybe this will change your mind.

Despite the fact that over $6 billion will likely be spent on this year's election, many of the people spending that money actually don't want you to vote if you are not supporting their candidate. The vicious negative campaign ads they produce, for example, are in part intended to turn voters off completely.

Instead of voting for the opposition, they would prefer you stay home and watch "Jersey Shore" or repeats of "Everybody Loves Raymond." Do not reward these people by voluntarily giving up your right to vote.

The one excuse for not voting that truly resonates is that people have been unable to take the time off from work to vote on Election Day. But thankfully, more than 30 states now have early voting. Hopefully in the future early voting will come to every state.

But we shouldn't just bemoan those who don't vote. Instead, we should be creating more incentives for people to cast their ballot. Why can't voting be fun and exciting? Let's have voting machine that are in essence also a slot machine so that voters can win prizes, maybe a $25 gift card to The Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Changs.

Why not have celebrities at the polling places? You can vote and get a photo with Honey Boo Boo. Or watch Buddy Valastro "the Cake Boss" make a special election- themed cake.

If that doesn't work, maybe it's time to impose penalties on those who don't vote. Not legally mandated voting like in Australia -- although that country does boast a 93% voter turnout in its last election. But more practical consequences, such as if you don't vote in a presidential election, you will be banned for a year from voting for contestants on "Dancing with the Stars," "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent."

Hopefully, the future will bring us more changes that make voting easier, such as online voting. But for now, all I can leave you with is: Vote damn it!

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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