Friday, May 7, 2010

The Right To Vote

The right to vote is one of the most important rights guaranteed in our constitution. I have come to this conclusion since it is addressed not once but six times in the amendments section and inheritantly a time or two in the main body.

15th Amendment: Right to vote regardless of race or color.
17th Amendment: Right to vote for Senators
19th Amendment: Right to vote regardless of gender
23rd Amendment: Right to vote for presidential electors if a resident of Washington, D.C.
24th Amendment: Right to vote even if a poll tax or any other tax is unpaid.
26th Amendment: Right to vote guaranteed for any person at least 18 years old.

I take my right to vote seriously and make it my duty to stay informed on subjects or persons being voted upon and then follow up by voting. However not everyone does this, especially at the local level for local issues which brought up the discussion recently on one of the blogs I read about compelling people, possibly those that receive some sort of government entitlement, to vote in an election in order to retain their entitlement. I think this is a terrible idea.

First, our constitution guarantees us the right to vote and thus inheritantly, the right not to vote. We are lucky that we can go to the polls and not fear reprisals for voting, for whom we are voting or for not voting at all. By mandating that people vote, we have put the latter in jeopardy and it is a slippery slope and one short step before we are doing the first two.

Secondly, when I see the phrase, "of the people, by the people, for the people," spoken by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg or read the opening line of our constitution which states that, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union," I envision a people who cared enough about their country that they did something about it. These weren't people who had no opinion as to whether or not slavery should be allowed. These were not people who felt that it didn't matter if they could practice their religion freely or not. These were not people who thought that watching the next episode of their favorite sitcom on television was more important than going to the polls to vote. These were people who believed in their cause so much that they felt compelled to do something about it, sometimes giving their lives for it. Voting should be the same way. Do we really value the opinion of someone who can't make time to vote in person or by absentee ballot weeks in advance? Our country should be run by those who passionately believe in their country and their beliefs, not those who were just too busy to care about those who govern for them.

Finally, on a personal level, I would much rather be ruled by someone who is passionate about their beliefs but opposed to mine than by someone who is uninformed about the issue at hand or are basing their vote on a thirty second television ad, one commentary from some radio or television personality or one slick flier that came in that day's mail. Why? I figure that the person who has researched their decision to the point that they have become passionate about their choice, is probably the same person who is passionate about our country's future and would stand shoulder to shoulder with me to defend it if necessary. If someone can't be counted on to stay informed on local issues or candidates for office, or can't be troubled to spend the few seconds it takes to fill out an absentee ballot, I'm not sure they are the people I would want defending my country and my constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

In my rural town, I recently was on the losing side of a vote in which our city government has just purchased a private entity that couldn't make enough money to make their mortgage payments. I feel that if they can't make their own mortgage payment now, they will only be a drain on our tax base in the future when our city owns them. I was in the 33% minority of those who voted which in total constituted only 25% of the eligible voting population. But I feel closer to those people who voted against me and cared enough to come out and say, "hey, I care about which way our city goes on this issue," than those 75% of the population who either couldn't find the time to even request an absentee ballot or didn't care what happened.


R. Sherman said...

Spot-on post.

What I find interesting about the apathy associated with local elections is that local issues and districts one has a greater likelihood of being heard or making a difference, as opposed to those "important" issues where one's voice and vote are drowned out simply by the volume of all the people "speaking."


Ed said...

R. Sherman - Thank you. I have recently started writing a few more letters to the editor of our local rag on local issues simply because I feel a voice of reason in our small community can affect more people than writing letters to the editor on national issues in our state rag. But alas, it doesn't work every time as this last vote proved. I'm not surprised because we had already allowed ourselves to get out on the slippery slope years ago and there was no where to go but downhill. I should write more about this as a warning and the precedent we have now set.

sage said...

Local elections probably do have greater impact on our lives than national ones... Here, almost all the local elections are not done at the same time as state and national ones which means they get fewer people voting, but my guess is that those who do vote know more about it.

On the other hand, I like the British system where there isn't as much time to campaign--now we'll have to wait and see what kind of govt they get!

Eutychus2 said...

I appreciate your post, and I feel privileged to not only vote, but get to work the polls on election day. Like Sage said here in Michigan local elections are not held at same time as state/national elections. I often wished they were for economic reasons, yet I wonder how many of those who come for state/national elections would cast an uninformed vote because its on the ballot. I guess there will always be those who vote to fulfill their responsibility but fail to really informed.....well, I guess at least they took the time to vote, and sooth their conscience somewhat. thanks.

Ed said...

Sage - I've already voted three times at the local level this year. I've wished they would standardize the dates and have one in the spring and our usual November one in the fall. It seems like some or our local organizations keep bringing the same issue up three and four times before they finally pick a day when people don't come and finally get it passed. It's happened that was for our last two tax increases one of which took four times before it passed.

Eutychus2 - I know many people who vote because of some thirty second television ad and it saddens me. Unfortunately, there is no intelligence test to vote.

Woody said...


Beau said...

Great point. It would be awful to tie entitlements to a vote requirement, and sounds like a political maneuver to ensure various population segments get to the polls. Human nature being what it is, what will many people receiving an entitlement vote for? Whomever/whatever program guarantees that their entitlements will continue.

A simplification, yes. But your larger point about passion and belief in terms of an issue is so important. We must never let the privilege of voting become regulated as a mandatory program, especially by the very governments for which we choose those who will represent us.

Ron said...

I'd like to be more informed of local issues. In the absence of honest upfront information regarding cost containment and measures to ensure effectiveness, though, I do like most of my neighbors and ignorantly shoot down increases in taxes. Were they for a good cause? Hard to say. I just know that someone wants me to pay for something, the benefits of which are murky at best. If they want my money, I deserve some clarity.

I would vote for an increase in taxes to support the local library, though, because we are intimately involved with it and know that funds are pretty well-managed there.


Three Score and Ten or more said...

Said a lot of things I have said in the past, but you did it a lot better.

Ed said...

Woody - Thanks.

Beau - Right on!

Ron - It is hard to stay informed in rural areas. I find myself having to go to the courthouse to request records to do the figuring myself versus waiting for the only newspaper to perhaps report on it. In my personal political opinion, when in doubt, vote no on ANY tax increase.

3 Score - I've read many of your opinions on the subject. But reading the comment on one of my reader's blog stirred me to rehash it again.