As a lawyer, I spend a lot of time studying, enforcing and protecting “rights:” contract rights, employment rights, privacy rights, civil rights, etc. Indeed, 21st Century Americans are keenly sensitive to perceived infringements on individual rights. What we are less sensitive to, perhaps, is our individual and collective responsibility to act in ways likely to secure and maintain those rights for ourselves and our posterity.
Election Day brings with it one of our bedrock rights as Americans – the right to vote. Our enlightened Founders risked life and liberty to birth a nation based on democratic ideals and enshrined those ideals in our groundbreaking Constitution. Abolitionists, Suffragettes, and civil rights supporters toiled to secure the right to vote for all men and women regardless of race, gender or creed.
Implicit in the right to vote is the right not to vote. Whether due to indifference, disgust or neglect, we might choose to stay home on Election Day. After all, it’s our “right.” But what of our responsibility?
As you read this, volunteers are staffing polling stations across the country. Men and women in our Armed Forces stand at the ready in every corner of the globe to defend our nation and its ideals – to defend our right to vote, or not to vote. And student protesters in Hong Kong typify a near universal yearning for the fair and democratic elections we Americans may take for granted.
Please find time to vote this Election Day. Encourage others to do so. Teach your children this important responsibility and be zealous to protect the right of every American to vote, even those who may vote differently than you. It is a hard won, lavishly protected, and universally coveted right. Exercise it responsibly, regularly and reverently.