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.