In this election cycle, I hear talk about a drop in voter turnout. People say they are disillusioned with the political process or aren’t inspired by either party. Unfortunately many citizens take the ballot box for granted, believing the right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution. But, as Victoria Bassetti points out in Harper’s, no such right exists. The 14, 15, 19, 24 and 26 Amendments provide only partial protection:
The vote cannot be denied to a citizen on the basis of race, gender, age (once the voter is over eighteen), or the ability to pay a poll tax. (“In Search of the Right to Vote,” by Victoria Bassetti, Harper’s Magazine, 10/12, pg. 18.)
Voter eligibility, she points out, is determined by the states, not by the federal government, and is at the heart of the voter ID battle. Not even Thomas Paine, one of our Founding Fathers, was guaranteed a vote. After a dispute with George Washington, he was turned away from the New York polls. (Ibid, pg. 17)
Some people excuse their malaise to their cynicism about Wall Street and the mire in Congress. But that defense ignores the obvious. The ballot box is the one place in the political process where money and power do not matter. Failing to exercises one’s vote is a serious a blow to our democracy and a disrespect to the soldiers who risk their lives to protect our form of government.