#IVITEB – I’m voting in this election because…
#7 – John Lewis told me to.
I’m voting in this election because… I believe voting is more than a right and more than a privilege. It’s the duty of every eligible U.S. citizen.
Not everyone concurs.
Most of us can at least agree voting is a right for “the people” of the United States.
To be sure, there have been disagreements about who constitutes “the people” over the years. The rich white men who wrote and ratified the Constitution limited “the people” to rich white men who owned land or were successful professionals like merchants and attorneys. They excluded women, black people, people under a certain age and so on. The right still doesn’t exist for many U.S. citizens, like teenagers whose futures depend on election outcomes, and felons, even if they have paid their debts to society.
For the most part, though, Americans believe voting is a right for anyone 18 or over who is in good standing with the law. Or we’re supposed to, at any rate.
To me it’s more than that. In all the years I’ve been eligible, I have never missed an election at any level. I’m not bragging; I just see voting as my right and my responsibility.
Anyone born or naturalized in this country is a U.S. citizen, but in my mind there’s a deeper meaning to citizenship. To truly be a citizen, one must participate in electing representatives who govern, hold them accountable for the health and safety (life and liberty) of the people, and, on a higher plane, work to ensure we’re all able to pursue happiness.
There is strong support for this viewpoint, but as I said, not everyone agrees.
Some argue that, in the same way U.S. citizens have the right to vote, they have the right not to. That’s technically true; no one is forced to vote. None that we know of, anyway.
I saw this line of reasoning a few weeks ago as a comment on a social media post urging people to vote, saying it is our civic duty.
The commenter responded, “I’m going to be the naysayer…voting is a right, not a duty. DON’T vote if you don’t understand the issues… Don’t vote because ‘it’s the thing to do.’ Vote because you have an opinion and you wish to exercise that right to vote.”
Setting aside what can arguably be called a form of voter suppression, he’s technically right. But civically he’s dead wrong.
Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of people who either agree with him or just don’t care. The fact is, at least half of people who were eligible did not vote in 2016. Look where that got us.
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics
is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
We now have an opportunity to take what went so horribly wrong in 2016 and begin to repair the damage, to make things right.
Voting is not only our right – it is our power.
But it can only begin with each and every eligible U.S. citizen exercising our right and doing our duty.
Perhaps voting should be a duty, one defined not just in the consciences of people but in the ledgers of law. There are good arguments for doing so, and research backing them up.
For now, though, I have just one more of “the people” to quote:
The right to vote is precious, almost sacred.
People fought for it, bled for it, died for it.
Honor their sacrifice. Vote.
Rep. John Lewis
Surely Lewis, who literally bled for the right to vote, saw it as more than a mere option.
So whether you do it early in person now (too late to chance mailing at this point) or on November 3, please take advantage of your right and your privilege to vote.
More than that, fulfill your duty.
Please be sure to read the other posts in the #IVITEB series:
#1 – The Climate Crisis
#2 – Women’s Rights
#3 – Criminal Justice Reform
#4 – I Am a Progressive
#5 – Guns Are Killing U.S.
#6 – Workers’ Rights & Protections
#8 – Attacks on Press Must Stop
#9 – Not Better Off. Not By a Long Shot.
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Featured image by Xackery Irving via Shutterstock.