By Stephanie Philbrick
“I vote because I see it as a civic duty. I’m now 72 and have voted in every local/state/Federal election since I turned 18.”
– Suzanne Carmichael, League member
Now that is true patriotism! Suzanne isn’t alone in her dedication to our country, though. Many of us consider voting a right and a responsibility. Deep down, we feel that voting is a celebration of our democracy – a chance to show our dedication to our country.
The constitutional amendments that address voting begin with “The right of citizens of the United States to vote…” but what if they began with “The responsibility of the citizens of the United States to vote…” instead? How would that change our country and our view of voting? Some people still face barriers to voting but we also know that apathy is one of the main reasons that people don’t vote.
For some of us it took so long to gain the right that it just seems crazy that in 2012 only 54.9% of the voting population cast a vote in the Presidential election. Even within the last 75 years, so many of us couldn’t vote:
- Some Native Americans didn’t get the right to vote until 1957.
- In 1952, Asian American immigrants were finally allowed to become citizens – and to vote.
- Residents of Washington D.C. couldn’t vote for President until 1961!
- And it wasn’t until 1971 that the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.
It’s easy to be cynical right now and to think that our vote won’t matter. But not voting won’t fix the problems we face, and it won’t fix the dissatisfaction we feel when we look at our government. Changing our political landscape starts at the ballot box with our votes. Election Day is the one day we are all Americans and the one day we all have a hand in governing our country.
League member Christine DeTroy says it like this, “By voting I know that I am a participant in the larger community.” Our American political system is one of the things that unites us as a country, but our democracy only works if we participate. We do that by voting.