Why Every Vote Counts
Understanding Your Role in Protecting Democracy
“Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” — Susan B. Anthony
Voting is a universal language applied in a myriad of ways.
Voting takes place for a Pope, Union Leader, Team Captain, Beauty Queen and even for Pig Snorting Contests.
As Juror’s, we vote for innocence or guilt; as Judges we vote for talent contests; as Family members we vote for what or where we eat dinner; and as citizens we vote for political leaders.
While the range and significance of each vote is diverse, one constant remains: EVERY VOTE COUNTS!
The duties or responsibilities of a citizen in a Democratic Society can be separated into two groups: mandatory responsibilities, such as paying taxes; and duties not demanded by law, such as voting.
The right to vote is a duty and responsibility, as well as a privilege.
Modern democracies, including the United States, extend the right to vote (suffrage) to almost all responsible adult citizens.
This inclusive voting right is known as universal suffrage. Indeed, “one person, one vote” is seen as a hallmark of representative democracy.
Abraham Lincoln best described democracy as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” For that government to be “by the people,” however, requires that the people decide who shall be their leaders.
Without free and fair elections, there can be no democratic society. Without the constant accountability of government officials to the electorate, there can be no assurance of any other rights. The right to vote is not only an important individual liberty; it is also a pillar of free government.
The right to vote is one of our most important civil liberties and those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must support the vehicle of freedom.
By fulfilling your obligation to express yourself with the ballot, you have preserved the democratic system. Moreover, voting is a sustained obligation that accompanies and protects the liberties we enjoy.
Why Vote? Does my vote really count? Is it worth it?
These are questions with a long history of debate. You may feel like the lone sane voice in a shouting match. But the answer to both of those questions is YES!
Many people argue that their votes do not count. They point to the sea of millions of voters and to the Electoral College system as proof that no individual vote counts.
However, those who do not vote are the only ones for whom that argument holds true. Their belief is flatly untrue — individual votes do count, especially under our Electoral College process.
In this system, a candidate need not win a simple majority of national votes, but instead must win the Electoral College votes in a sufficient number of states. This is accomplished by winning the popular vote in each of those states.
The difference may seem subtle, but it is crucial and makes individual voters more important than a flat nationally counted ballot.
If the right to vote no longer existed, our country would no longer survive as a democratic nation, but completely totalitarian. By not voting, you give away your right to influence the government overall.
More importantly, however, not voting takes away the “will of the majority that governs this country, and replaces it with the will of the minority”.
Voting in any type of election, from local elections to Presidential primaries, provides an important way to voice your opinions regarding elected leaders and overall policies. Voting also helps you decide your own future by electing a person who might reflect your own views.
Voting is a fundamental right. The ability to vote exists as one of the most cherished Rights that our forefathers fought for, marched for, and died for over the centuries.
Wars still rage so that citizens of other countries can earn this right; the right that many of us now take for granted.
The act of voting is a right that should be used with the utmost consideration and care.
Voting is more than just a right to be heard; it is a privilege of democracy, thus a moral obligation.
Because we live in a republic and enjoy the right of voting, we are not just people who elect the government. We are a small and integral part OF the government.
TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE
Of all of our freedoms, the right to vote is perhaps the most important one. However, not all citizens vote.
Why? The reasons have historically included apathy, disillusionment with the political structure, and the common belief that their one vote will really not count in the long run.
For so many reasons, they do not bother to vote, preferring instead to let others decide for them how their futures will unfold. Yet, there are other democracies in the world where people are protesting, fighting and even dying their right to vote.
It was Thomas Jefferson (1900) who put forward an important reason for voting: “Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights”.
For centuries, we have seen people rise up and demand this right.
Why? Historically, their motivation was the quest for freedom and empowerment of personal liberties. They strongly believe that their one vote really does count. For so many reasons, they are compelled to vote, preferring to vote for the leaders they trust, who will help them to enjoy newfound freedoms.
Representational government, the electorate, is our country’s foundation. Founded in the 18th century, the United States of America fought a rebellion against taxation without representation.
The King of England imposed taxes on the colonies, which had no voice in the British government by which they might hope to change laws that affected their prosperity.
After the Revolutionary War, great care was taken to craft a Constitution. This gave us rights and freedoms designed to ensure a voice in government for each individual.
However, as with all rights and freedoms, the right to vote carries with it vital responsibilities. When citizens fail to meet this obligation, our system of government does not function, as it should.
People offer a variety of reasons for ducking this responsibility, yet all of them amount to excuses.
Still, those who refuse their duty feel no restriction on their right to complain. They will not voice their opinions when it matters, yet feel entitled to express them at all other times.
Few things are as pathetic and irresponsible than someone who complains about government but who refuses to voice that opinion where it most matters — in the voting booth.
IN SEARCH OF DEMOCRATIC LITERACY
“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963)
Democracy demands an informed electorate. An informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy. These two factors are so intertwined that the failures or inadequacies of one can render the entire system ineffective.
If voters do not know what is going on in politics, they cannot rationally participate in government policy. Without their participation, their needs and wants cannot possibly be understood or realized.
This is particularly troubling in times of war or major conflict; in large issues such as healthcare, foreign policy, social security, education; and in so many other areas of social and political importance.
Inadequate voter knowledge has two major negative implications for democracy:
First, it prevents any meaningful reflection of the will of the people in democratic government.
Second, voter ignorance imperils the instrumental case for democracy as a nation that serves the interests of the majority, as ignorance potentially opens the door for both elite manipulation and gross policy errors caused by politicians’ need to appeal to an ignorant electorate in order to win office.
(read that last paragraph one more time and reflect upon it before moving on)
In order to vote with informed intelligence and exert meaningful influence over a given issue, voters at a minimum must take the time to:
Become aware of the issue’s existence.
Develop an informed position on the issue.
Understand the opposing candidate’s position on the issue.
“Voting is a sustained obligation that accompanies and protects the liberties we enjoy in a democratic society.” — Gary Ryan Blair
One measure of the strength of a democracy is the participation of its younger citizens. However, many young citizens are unfamiliar with the political process and the importance of voting unless they grew up in a family that was politically engaged, or happened to have taken civics or a related course in school.
Like the work ethic perhaps a voting ethic too can be learned. We must impress upon younger citizens the truth: that voting is a social duty that directly affects their life and future.
Time, energy and a focus on democratic freedoms must be invested in younger citizens. The creation of an entire generation of non-voters could have detrimental consequences for decades to come.
If concerned parties do not step up, the so-called “snowball effect” threatens to decimate the importance of voting to future generations.
How can anyone expect today’s younger citizens to advocate voting to their own children when they don’t care enough to vote themselves?
All rights carry with them responsibilities and obligations. Our rights deserve our utmost attention and vigilant protection. Achieving the right to vote has proven to be a hard fought accomplishment for all races and genders throughout history.
Now that each and every citizen in our country has the right to vote in any election, they must exercise this right.
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Gary Ryan Blair is a philanthropist, successful entrepreneur, engaged citizen and #1 bestselling author of Why Every Vote Counts.