The right to vote – or not

Another election is in the books. Did you vote?

If you did, you’re to be congratulated.

If you didn’t, you’re to be castigated automatically as a thoughtless jerk and a horrible citizen.

Or so it seems in certain circles.

I don’t happen to hold membership in those circles, however.

“But people fought in wars and died for your right to vote! You should always vote – no matter what!”

Well. . . more about that later.

A sense of civic duty and responsibility is a great thing. In an ideal situation, we all would vote in every election, after thoroughly educating ourselves about each candidate and issue for weeks. We’d all feel moved to cast ballots for one candidate or another, or for one side of an issue or the other, thus ensuring the results truly reflected a majority consensus.

But in the real world, this is not what happens.

Sometimes, we’re not sufficiently moved to support a candidate, or our views on a particular issue are not strong enough to warrant our support or opposition to it. Sometimes we haven’t taken the proper time to research the ballot and prefer not to cast uninformed ballots.

And you know what? That’s ok. In my book, that’s good citizenship, too. Sometimes when you’re on a trip and starving but the only two food options on the highway are Hank’s House of Grits and Chris’s Cholesterol Shack, you opt for neither and just keep driving.

Don’t misconstrue my position: I am a regular voter, and I’m not here to congratulate or heap praise upon those who decide not to vote for most reasons other than those described above. If you don’t vote because you’re not paying attention or simply don’t care, I wish you’d become a more active citizen in the future.

But even those citizens are free to stay home if they choose. This is America, after all.

”Well, if you don’t vote, then you can’t complain later!”

Not quite. Legal citizens don’t lose their rights to participate in matters of government simply because they don’t vote. Elected officials don’t take vows to work only for those who cast ballots. Everyone’s voice may still be heard after the election.

That’s the case due in no small part to the efforts of countless Americans who have fought in a multitude of wars during our 238 years as a nation.

But did you know that only one of those wars was waged specifically about the right to vote?

That would be the Dorr War, or Dorr Rebellion, of 1842 in Rhode Island. It was named for Thomas Dorr, who objected to the notion that only people who owned at least $134 worth of property could cast ballots in the state. It was a short-lived conflict, which included the malfunction of a cannon and the death of just one person – a bystander.

So while the right to vote should and does hold a meaningful place in the lives of most Americans – and is particularly significant for minorities and women, who shamefully were not permitted to cast ballots for many years in this country, and whose predecessors waged lengthy and determined efforts to correct that injustice – no one has ever died fighting a war specifically to protect or grant your right to vote.

Rather, what those brave folks fought to establish and protect was your right to be free – free to live in a place where you can choose to do – or not do – anything you’d like, as long as it doesn’t violate the law.

That includes the decision to vote or not to vote.

”But if you vote, you get one of these cool stickers that you can wear around all day long and get free Slurpees and stuff!”

Alrighty then. You’ve got my vote.

E-mail Citizen Publisher Tom Lappas at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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May 2017
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