Voting is an Obligation
In 1965 U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights into law. Its primary purpose was to enforce the 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution which forbade states and the federal government the right to deny voting rights to any citizen because of race, color or previous condition of servitude. It also forced jurisdictions with histories of voter discrimination to submit any changes to its election laws to the government for federal approval prior to the change taking effect. In 2006 that act was extended another 25 years. Do not take it for granted. Is there a better way to protect what is central to the equality of all Americans? If not, why then is the voting record of so many so dismal? Records reveal that voter apathy is worse among minorities who have the most to gain by voting and the most to lose by not voting. The right to vote was a hard fought-for privilege. Ask U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia.
Lewis suffered a fractured skull in the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama, in the spring of 1965. He was among 600 people marching for voting privileges and other civil rights, who were brutally attacked by Alabama State Police. A week and one day later the bill was signed into law.
Voting sustains that right. But more than a right, voting like every other guarantee by the U.S. Constitution, demands certain obligations. This means, for that right to be satisfied it must be exercised. Exercising it, satisfies the obligation and protects the entitlement. Voter apathy is immoral. It violates the principles of good citizenship. Meaning that persons not registered, or are registered and won’t vote without good reason are not worthy of citizenship. The problem associated with this assertion is that persons who should won’t read it.
An Associated Press report of last November’s election stated that only 22 percent of New Jersey’s electorate voted. This marked the lowest level of voter turnout since 1924. In Willingboro, with 21,977 registered voters 4,943 voted in the last election. That is less than one quarter of the electorate. The national averages are just as grim. President Barack Obama suggested that Congress make voting mandatory. If everybody voted, it would completely change the political map in the country, he said. The President was referring to the lack of midterm voter turnout that sealed the lid on his political agenda for middle class America. New Jersey lawmakers seek ways to reverse this trend.
A recent Associated Press article states that Vincent Prieto, Speaker of the Democratic-controlled Assembly, criticized Governor Chris Christie for vetoing the new Democracy Act. It would have allowed early voting among other changes. Republicans countered that the changes Democrats want would politically favor them. The Brennan Center for Justice in New York University’s School of Law states that state governments across the country have enacted new laws that made it harder to register or vote. Other states have cut back on early voting.
While those who refuse to vote moan and yawn their lives away, voting rights, for which honorable citizens have died, are being restricted. The warnings are too numerous to mention to this little space. But the old adage does apply; use it or lose it. Blame no one except yourself.
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The ideas presented in this article are strictly those of Ye Scribe, Harry Kendall and do not necessarily represent the official position of Willingboro Township.