Voter's Rights vs. the Right to Vote

In America today, only a fraction of the population determines who runs our governments. No, this isn't an article about the "elite" who control the media, or Washington insiders and their gofers who do their master's bidding in hopes of one day being "anointed" so they can run for and hold office some day.

The small number of Americans who control what happens in government, and therefore in the country, are those who take the time to vote. In national elections, we typically see 50% or less of eligible voters turn out. In off year elections, voting for local government offices might muster a 7-10% showing if the weather is good. Now, taking the time to vote is not the same as taking the time to become informed on the issues and the possible consequences of our choices when we vote. That is the two-fold problem with our democratic republics today.

Americans take their liberties for granted and view their right to vote as not a great freedom, but something they may or may not take advantage of. Indeed, some view taking the time to vote as an inconvenience. People need to take the time to understand the power they have as voters, and in the future the South should seriously consider how they are going to bestow the right to vote on people (in a free South that is).

Many of our present day citizens don't realize that at the founding of our Constitution, not everyone had the right to vote. Not only were slaves and women not allowed to vote, but also each state determined the qualifications for a man to be able to vote. Usually this meant that one had to hold property (read land, not just a home) and had to have some level of education. Being able to read might just come in handy when you want to make your mark by the name of the individual you want to represent you.

Serious thought needs to be given to the concept of Voter's Rights. Does everyone inherently have a right to vote? If so, shouldn't everyone then have certain requirements of him or her so they can responsibly exercise that right? Look at it this way: We all say that public school education is not doing what we want. Most folks agree that teachers should be held to certain standards and should exhibit their qualifications to teach on a regular basis by passing some kind of test or review periodically.

If it is good enough for those who educate our children, isn't it good enough for those of us who wish to have a say in who runs our government? What is wrong with establishing some kind of a test or review that measures a person's knowledge of current events, issues and candidates to be voted on?

Another consideration in who should vote is what does someone stand to gain from voting on an issue. It doesn't make sense for someone on welfare to be eligible to vote. How often do you get to determine how much of a raise you will get? People dependent on government handouts shouldn't be voting on increasing welfare payments, or taxes to enhance entitlements. That is like having an alcoholic in charge of the keys to the liquor cabinet: very questionable judgement.

It is amazing how many people still vote straight party line because "they don't trust those other guys," or because "that's how my father and grandfather voted." That is laziness and blatant ignorance. Levers in voting booths allowing people to vote party line should be removed so people are forced to flick each lever. It may not change much, but folks will have to work a little harder at being stupid.

While voters have the right to take part in the election process, the right to vote should not be abused, or worse ignored. Exercising the right to vote is a phenomenal power that many don't seem to understand today. We must always remember that with great power comes great responsibility. We all have the responsibility to exercise our right to vote, but we must exercise it from a position of being informed, responsible citizens.

Jeff Adams
December 6, 1999