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Voting: Right and Responsibility

By Carol Parker Thompson, Ph.D.

Voters’ guides reciting candidates’ credentials and promises are featured in nearly every newspaper prior to a mid-term or general election. Instructions concerning when and where to vote are readily available by calling city hall or googling “Voting in .Mchigan”.

What is missing is WHY all of us of voting age who are eligible to vote can and should vote in every election.

We could argue for an eternity about whether voting is a privilege, responsibility, or right. Webster defines the terms this way:

Privilege: A right, advantage, favor or immunity specially granted to one; a right held by a certain individual, group, or class and withheld from certain others or all others.

Responsibility: the condition of being responsible; accountable; readily assuming obligations, duties; dependable, reliable.

Right: that which a person has a just claim to; power, privilege, etc. that belongs to a person by law, nature or tradition.

Most people believe that voting is all three—a privilege, a responsibility, and a right.

The opportunity to vote is a privilege. Generations that came before us fought for this privilege through war, grassroot movements or legislative changes, and we should honor them by voting.

Voting in every election is an obligation, a duty, and a responsibility as a citizen to be accountable, and it allows us to choose those who would lead the government.

All of us have a role to play in making sure that our government reflects our wishes. This is one of the fundamental reasons why we need to vote!

Those who do not vote let others make their choices for them. If you want a say in how this country is run, and how the decisions made by lawmakers affect your life, then you have a duty to vote. If you do not vote, then you have no right to complain when things do not go the way that you wished.

Voting is perceived as a right in accordance with “justice, law and morality”. Voting rights are mentioned five times in the U. S. Constitution, and are protected by the following amendments:

1st amendment, 1789 - white males over 21 years of age could vote.
15th amendment, 1870 - blacks could vote.
19th amendment, 1920 - women could vote.
23rd amendment, 1961 - citizens of Washington, D. C. could vote.
26th amendment, 1971 - lowered voting age from 21 to 18.

Voting is protected by the U. S. Constitution in Article #15, Section 1. The right to vote is also protected under the Michigan Constitution in Article II: Section 1, Amendment XXVI.

Viewing the opportunity to vote as a right can get problematic when there are often instances of disenfranchised groups who are unable to vote because of state-by-state election rules and regulations, felony convictions, no regular residence, or the lack of government-issued identification. Also, it is impossible for an individual to take on the burden of responsibility if they lack the right to vote in the first place.

However, these limitations do not apply for most of us. So, we have little excuse for not availing ourselves of the opportunity to vote. We simply cannot take this “right” for granted.

For those for whom barriers to voting have kept them away from the polls, relief may be on its way. In the election taking place next Tuesday, November 6, there is a proposal, 18-3 that would modify Michigan’s voting laws if passed. This constitutional amendment would make it easier to vote by authorizing automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, straight-ticket voting, etc.

What this legislation means (if passed) is no more long lines and interminable waiting. You are automatically registered to vote when you go to renew your driver’s license. You can get an absentee ballot without providing a reason. You can cast a straight-ticket vote for all candidates of your chosen party.

Voter enthusiasm as reported recently seems to be up. For this election, I expect long lines and impatient voters. So here is my advice.

Obtain a copy of the ballot BEFORE GOING TO THE POLLS at https://webapps.sos.state.mi.us so that you have time to study it. Depending on where you live, your ballot may be different than mine. My ballot is long — nearly two pages. It contains nominees in 19 categories — State, Congressional and Legislative offices, leaders of educational institutions, County Commissioner, Judicial leaders, four Judges, and board members of MCC and Mona Shores Schools and that is ONLY PAGE 1!

On page 2 are three state proposals, one county proposal and one local school proposal. All of these will take time to study, so forewarned is forearmed. (Editor’s Note: See last week’s Examiner for info about the state proposals.)

Be prepared with your selections to get you in and out more quickly. Try to be patient, and bring something to entertain yourself as you wait. Whatever happens, remember that your vote counts!

With all of the stress, negativity and divisiveness going on in this country, this may be one of the most important elections ever. This country needs to heal and come together again as it has in most prior elections with gracious winners and committed electoral “losers” peacefully accepting defeat and pledging together to move the country forward in a positive direction.

What I want to see happening after November 6 is reconciliation, compromise and harmony. To do so will take all political parties working together to achieve this end. WE must prove again and show the world that we are the UNITED States of America.

Remember to cast your vote on November 6.

Contact Dr. Thompson at caroltmcc@comcast.net
 

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