“Voting is fundamental in our democracy. It has yielded enormous returns.” ~ Arlen Specter
I have bloviated about the importance of engaging in the political process on this blog before. Sadly, not everyone has the time to attend local city council meetings, join city commissions or engage in the deeper political activism that those of us who get as excited about election night as most normal people do about the Summer Olympics or Super Bowl Sunday. There is just too much happening for many people to make this a top priority. However, even if you have no interest or time to get deeply involved in the political process, it is imperative that you take the time to cast your vote. There are some who scoff at the importance of voting and believe it’s as about as important as figuring out how many planets make up the Galactic Republic (Believe it or not, I don’t actually know the answer to this one). However, there are many reasons why this is not true and they must take advantage of their right to vote.
It is our responsibility. We live in a country where all of our laws are set by elected representatives. It only makes sense we should ensure those officials are chosen in a process that includes as many of the population as possible. Every time we choose to stay at home we shirk our watchdog role and allow the influence of money to grow increasingly more powerful as the active electorate shrinks. Furthermore, we allow knee jerk reactions and organized efforts by special interests to affect election outcomes in way detrimental to the common good. The ability to vote is a great power and, to paraphrase a certain friendly neighborhood spider’s uncle, comes with great responsibility. A fact it would behoove us to remember.
Many people have, and continue to, die for the right to vote. While this may seem dramatic, it nonetheless rings true. The war responsible for the founding of the United States was fought in large part based upon the idea of “No Taxation Without Representation” which at its core was the idea that a populace should be able to vote on the decisions that affect it. Many civil rights readers like Martin Luther King Jr. gave their lives for causes that amongst other things included ensuring every citizen would have the ability to vote. Even today we are seeing entire populations in the Middle East rise up and risk their lives in order to have a say in who governs them. We owe it to all those who have given their lives to preserve this democratic principle that allow us to make our voice heard.
Its easy, but if we continue to abstain from engaging in this process, it won’t be. What’s that you say? Just because something is easy, doesn’t mean you should do it. Well, fortunately I just gave you two compelling reasons that, coupled with this fact, should eliminate any reservations you might have had. Besides the more important point here, is right now we have a relatively easy process for gaining input in who represents us in danger of becoming more difficult. For example, many of the officials who were chosen in the last midterms during an election that was characterized by depressed voter turn out are now pushing laws and ballot initiatives that would make it far more difficult for the most at-risk voters to make their voice heard. There are many reasons these efforts will make voting more complicated, most of which are illustrated here. A healthy democracy requires an accessible means to convey one’s opinion of its government, and failing to vote places these avenues in jeopardy.
Voting is not only easy and our responsibility, but we owe it to the many lives lost preserving this right to exercise it. I will be the first one to admit that no form of government is perfect. That often times we elect officials based on promises that never come to fruition. However, I refuse to accept these disappointments as a reason to neglect one of our most sacred duties as a people. Apathy is not the solution to discouragement. Rather, we should strive to become more informed and continually elect those who exhibit moral integrity and a desire to make the world a better place to live in. Anything less is a failure to ourselves and the generations who will inherit this lack of civic responsibility. Something we simply can not allow.