Recently an e-newsletter received from a conservative coalition group wisely advised its readers to vote in the upcoming elections. However, it stated the “right to vote is a precious privilege” and encouraged readers to exercise their “privilege to vote”.
Voting in the United States of America is a RIGHT, not a “privilege”.
The U.S. Constitution stated in Amendment XV, which was ratified by the states in 1870: “Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
This would include recent attempts from many states to enforce Voter ID legislation. The argument that an ID is needed for driving, some pharmaceutical purchases or boarding on a plane is not comparable to the constitutionally protected right to vote. A ‘right’ is a legal entitlement.
Calling voting a “privileged right” implies that the right to vote can be taken away. It also implies a certain moral superiority to those who share the organization’s views. Voters are voters. Period. There cannot be classes of voters; that is the whole principle behind voting in the United States of America.
All ballots are equal, but that is not the case when laws are enacted to force certain groups (i.e., college students, older citizens, Native Americans) to jump hurdles to exercise their right to vote.
In the words of that brilliant philosopher George Carlin, “Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away.” The League of Women Voters works every day to ensure that all citizens’ ability to exercise their right to vote is not hindered by barriers that seek to exclude any citizen from casting their ballot.
The sheer act of voting is a fundamental right, however, learning about the candidates and their issues prior to entering the polls is important preparation to the act of voting.
Please remember to vote; it’s your right!
Mary C. Tintes, West Fargo, ND –Member, League of Women Voters of Red River Valley
Terry Kalil, Detroit Lakes, MN – President, League of Women Voters Minnesota