Is it necessary to vote in order to be a "good" citizen in a democracy?
First, there’s no obligation to vote, and that’s great. Only totalitarian states compel 100 percent of their citizens to vote. Americans can shun the polling places and send the message that none of the candidates are acceptable.
However, this year the choices seem stark, underlining how voting remains a privilege – and a valuable one. Political operatives know the value of each ballot. Some cynics like to loudly proclaim that one vote doesn’t amount to much. Yet some of these cynics quietly charter buses to take their supporters to the polls. You may think your vote doesn’t count, but plenty of people on the other side of the issues think their votes count for plenty.
For what counts is not just my ballot, but mine and yours and the next person’s and ultimately those of everyone who votes. Only in a dictatorship does one person’s vote determine an election. In a democracy, the outcome is determined by the votes of all of us – meaning each of us.
This holds true especially in races that attract fewer voters, but may have a big impact. Look, for instance, at the North Carolina Supreme Court race. The winning candidate may tilt the state’s highest court in one direction or the other, affecting crucial issues such as redistricting. In such “down ballot” races, with fewer people casting ballots, the impact of votes is even greater.
Finally, with widespread early voting, much of the inconvenience of voting has been removed. It is no longer an irksome chore, but a simple task even in today’s hectic world.
People shouldn’t feel as if they have to vote – but they should be glad they can. And they should be eager this fall to join with their fellow citizens in casting ballots.
This response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned, was written by Jim Tynen of the Civitas Institute. You can find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts here and through comments or by submitting a response to Austin Baird.