In the last presidential election, out of 206 million eligible voters, 75 million didn't take time to vote.
This November, the presidency, every House seat, and 33 Senate seats are up for grabs. The next president and Congress could make decisions about the future of Social Security and Medicare that affect Americans for generations.
See also: 3 questions to ask the candidates.
As citizens, each of us has the right to choose who makes those decisions. It's the purest expression of equality. No matter who you are, no matter how little money you have or what kind of work you do, your vote counts the same as any other American's.
Make a difference. Elections are sometimes won by microscopic margins. If less than 1 percent of the vote had shifted in 11 states, President Kennedy would not have won the 1960 election. Senator Al Franken finally won his seat by 312 votes after nearly eight months of recounts and court challenges that ended in 2009. Of course, the 2000 presidential election was so close that the Supreme Court chose to weigh in on Florida's recount.
Value your vote. People have died for this right; continue to fight and bleed for it; cross borders, oceans and steep mountains in pursuit of it.
Know the rules! The rules for voting can change. In my travels in Pennsylvania, where a new voter-ID law was passed, a number of members asked me what effect the law might have. In the past year, 41 states (is yours one of them?) introduced 180 bills that could change the rules — for example, requiring photo identification to cast a ballot or changing the dates for early voting. Check with your local election board to make sure you are properly registered, you know when and where to vote, and you have everything you need to cast your ballot. Remind friends and family to do the same.
Learn all you can. AARP continues its long tradition of voter education, bringing you — after Labor Day, when the campaign really heats up — the candidates' views on important issues at earnedasay.org.
It's your right and, I'd argue, your responsibility to make a difference. Let's show up in droves! Let's set new highs of voter turnout nationwide, beating 2008's 64 percent — and increase voting levels in every state, from Minnesota's 75 percent to Utah's 52 percent. (Come on, Utah! You can do better than that!)
You've earned a say. Make sure your voice is heard!
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