While some countries do not allow their citizens to vote, Americans are fortunate enough to have that right protected by their founding documents. Unfortunately, there are many who take that right for granted which may some day cost us that freedom.
The United States of America is a constitutional republic (and a democracy to a certain extent). The word democracy comes from the two Greek words demos and kratos. “Demos” means people, and “kratos” means power or authority. In a constitutional republic (and democracy), the government’s power comes from its people. Pure democracy is the rule of the people. If there were only a few people in our local, state, or national communities it would be possible for all of them to meet in one place and personally make their own laws. Since our country, states, and most of our local communities are too large for this, we select individuals to represent us in making laws for the good of the people. This means that the vote of each individual citizen determines who is elected, but it wasn’t always this way.
Democracy and Republic are two forms of government, which are distinguished by their treatment of the minority, and the individual, by the majority. In a Democracy, the majority has unlimited power over the minority. This system of government does not provide a legal safeguard of the rights of the Individual and the minority. It has been referred to as “Majority over Man”. In a Republic, the majority is limited and constrained by a written Constitution which protects the rights of the individual and the minority. The purpose of a Republic form of government is to control the majority and to protect the God-given, inalienable rights and liberty of the individual.
When our country was first colonized, the English settlers that came to the U.S. brought the idea of a constitutional republic (and democracy) with them. All the colonies had some kind of elections, but only the colonists who owned property were permitted to vote. This pretty much limited the voters to being white, male landowners. In 1870, the fifteenth amendment stated that citizens cannot be kept from voting because of race or color. The nineteenth amendment gave women citizens the right to vote, in 1920. Voting is a hard earned important right that should not be taken for granted.
Some people ask themselves if they have to vote. People do not have to vote if they do not want to, but they should vote.
One of the first responsibilities of citizens in constitutional republics (and democracies) is to be an informed voter. Informed, intelligent voters are necessary to a strong democratic government. If citizens are poorly informed or indifferent, it increases the risk of having a poorly-run, inefficient government. Voters should check out the different candidates and issues on the ballot. In this nation, we take great pride in our freedom of speech and of the press. Voters can read newspapers, magazines, and books to learn more about the candidates. They should also watch the news, listen to the radio, or check the Internet. It is very important for the voter to use critical thinking to evaluate this information. Have all the sides of an issue been presented or only the facts which support a certain view? Have candidates’ quotes been taken out of context? Some TV programs reflect the view of their sponsors. Even the newscasts are slanted towards republican or democrat thinking. Magazine articles often reflect the views of their advertisers. Voters need to take this into consideration. Decisions should not be based on prejudice or emotions. Don’t accept other people’s opinions; make up your own mind.
There are some people who ask the question, why should I vote anyway? I’m only one person, my vote doesn’t make a difference; but if they do not vote and the candidate that they wanted to win loses, then the only people that they should blame is themselves. If they had voted, the candidate that they wanted to win might have won the election. Sometimes the winner of an election is decided by just a few votes. In fact some important decisions in our nation’s history have been decided by just one vote. California was admitted as a state by just one vote in 1850. In 1868 President Andrew Johnson was acquitted of impeachment charges by just one vote. Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president by one electoral vote in 1876.
Every republic (and democracy) is a reflection of the citizens being governed. Each citizen can contribute to good government by voting. It is part of a citizen’s responsibility in a constitutional republic (and democracy). Participating in free elections is one of the traditional rights of the American people. Your vote is important. Vote!