The Sunflower

As an American duty, voting should be a protected right

Voting+generic
Voting generic

Voting generic

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Voting generic

For 231 years, the United States Constitution and its amendments have reigned as law of the land — explicitly granting Americans rights and privileges that are to be protected by and from the government.

Americans can’t seem to agree on whether voting is a right or a privilege — and it’s important to note that the two are not interchangeable. The distinction between right and privilege plays a key role in voter suppression in the United States.

The purpose of a democracy is to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions. If a politician in any office is doing their job poorly, it’s up to the electorate to remove them from their position and vote in a capable candidate.

When voting is treated as a privilege, more and more potential voters become disenfranchised. If citizens don’t get registered in time, can’t afford an ID, or aren’t able to miss work or drive to the polls, constituents don’t have the ability to hold leaders responsible for actions that affect everyone. Without this steady system of accountability, the entire concept of American democracy will crumble beneath us.

Under the status quo of the Constitution as it stands, voting rights and parameters are left to the states to decide. Very few are federally protected. The 15th and 19th Amendments guard against voter discrimination on the basis of race or sex, respectively. The 24th Amendment outlawed the poll tax. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.

The status quo on voter rights allows states such as Kansas and Mississippi to implement voter ID laws. These laws make it substantially more difficult for voters who are historically disenfranchised on the basis of such traits as race, sex, or income.

Voter impersonation is almost non-existent and these laws cost states millions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere. Leaving voter rights up to the state to determine gives room for local biases that create voter registration laws and other discriminatory legislation.

When someone comes of legal voting age, they should automatically become a registered voter — just as the federal government automatically enrolls adult men in the draft. This will eliminate the need to remember to register at all, and can motivate citizens to be more civically engaged.

If voting was treated as a right instead of a privilege, voter suppression would drastically decrease and voter turnout would exponentially increase. Without the need to purchase a valid government issued ID or register to vote, citizens more citizens would go to the polls on Election Day.

It is not a privilege to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. It is a right as an American citizen to be in control of the government. The U.S. was founded on the grounds of being “by the people and for the people.”

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