What trips most people up is the wording in the Constitution.
Technically speaking, the 26th Amendment does read “The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older…” yadda yadda yadda.
But those guys who wrote the amendment… yea, they worded it wrong.
Voting is not your right.
The word right implies that there is a choice.
It is your right to choose who you vote for. Just as it is your right to freely speak your mind. Or to choose where to go for dinner. Or who to date. Or what football team you support.
These are rights.
But the actual act of voting is not a right.
It is a duty.
For those of you in the “it is my right and it is my right NOT to vote” camp, try this shoe on for size.
You live in a country. This country is safe and wealthy and a leader amongst other countries. Your country is a place of incredible opportunity. People are able to speak and write freely. You are provided a good education and have the ability to choose what you want to do for work. If you want, you can easily start a business and advance your life economically.
Your country is a place that people from other countries flock to to for a chance at a better life. There are no wars in this country. Every night, you fall asleep under the safety blanket of the world’s most powerful military.
Your country’s culture is absorbed by other countries around the world. Your music is listened to and your movies are watched by people the world over. This country is a place of creativity and innovation. The place where some of the world’s brightest minds gather to work and create. Your country is a place that, if given the opportunity, millions of people from around the world would pay to move to.
Your country provides you with all of the basic necessities you need to survive. Without thinking, you wake up and have access to clean drinking water. Your roads are paved and the schools for your children are free. There are even people who come and take away your garbage once a week.
You, for the most part, live a decent life.
And in return, you have this “right.” It is this thing your country asks you to do, more or less, once every two years.
People have died so that you may have this “right.” Wars have been fought to preserve this “right.” Your fellow citizens, past and present, have received some serious ass-whoopings while fighting for this “right.”
Your “right” is to select the people who will best lead and guide your country in the future. Your “right” is to decide who will be paid to lead us using the tax money that you pay each year.
Now go back read through those paragraphs. Does the word “right” seem to fit?
Didn’t think so.
It’s because it isn’t a right. It is a duty, plain and simple.
Now, I am writing this to everyone, but I am looking every millennial and Gen-X’r in the eye. We need to step up guys. Our voter turnout numbers are pathetic. In the last mid-term election, 16% of voters between the ages of 18-29 voted. 16 effin’ percent.
The 30-44 age demographic was not much better. In the last mid-term election only 30% of these voters actually showed up to care.
And if you think that our current president’s political ass-hattery has all of a sudden galvanized the youth to vote, think again. A recent poll showed that only 28% of voters under 40 plan to vote in this year’s mid-term election.
As we go on, it is important for me to not come off as a complete self-righteous finger pointer. I am a part of the problem. I admit it openly. I did not vote in 2014 or 2016. I was either living abroad or traveling internationally and just could not be bothered to send in for my absentee ballot.
It made me sick to watch Donald Trump get inaugurated in 2017 and know that my indifference, and the indifference of so many of my peers, was the leading cause of our country’s biggest political boo-boo.
You see, we all like to think that our skipping out on voting is not that big of a deal. That our individual vote doesn’t matter that much. And yes, if we are splitting hairs, your single vote will not likely be the deciding factor in any election. But that is missing the entire point.
It is this focus on individualism that is the core of the problem. Voting does nothing for us personally, so it becomes easy to skip. Voting is not fun or exciting. It does not make us feel better about ourselves. There is no financial incentive. You stand in line and wait and punch a few buttons and walk away to the rest of your day.
But it is because we view voting as a right, and not an obligation, that it becomes so easy to forget about. Think of one of our soldiers at a sentry post in some faraway land. It is not fun for them to stand guard all night. It is not exciting. They do not get paid more. These soldiers are often wet and cold and tired and bored. But they do their part and they stand guard. Not because it is their right, but because it is their duty.
Just as it is ours to vote.
Big changes come from small actions.
E Pluburis Unum — “Out of many, one.”
Out of many small actions, we can be a part of one major change. Your individual vote is not important by itself. But as a part of a collective of two million other individual decisions to vote, it all of a sudden is very important. You are then a part of a movement.
We have been blessed beyond measure to have been born in the United States. With this blessing comes responsibility. Our country’s leaders make decisions that affect people and countries around the world. Our military has the power to eliminate the world about seventeen different times and still have a couple nukes left in the chamber.
It is our duty and responsibility as citizens to make sure that this power is entrusted to the best men and women possible.
We are obligated to use the education we received to make a decision about who to vote for, so we can drive on the roads that are maintained for us and walk into the schools that are free for our children and take a couple minutes to punch some holes in a piece of paper.
It is our responsibility to take one fuck from our big pocketful of fucks and give it to our political elections.
I don’t care who you vote for. I just care that you vote. I believe that there are more good people than bad people out there. I believe that if all eligible voters participate, at the end of the day, logical and moral decisions will be made.
Call me an optimist, but I believe in us.
But enough with the preaching. Let’s get to some practical stuff.
For all of my fellow digital nomads and expats out there, keep riding that big beautiful wave. Just make sure you take some time to vote.
Here is a link to Federal Voting Assistance Program – https://www.fvap.gov/. This site will help you to apply for an absentee ballot in your home state and vote from abroad.
All absentee voter registration forms must be postmarked by October 17th.
Your absentee ballot must be requested by November 1st and your ballot postmarked by November 6th.
NOTE: YOU WILL NEED A PRINTER FOR TO COMPLETE THE REGISTRATION PROCESS.
For all of my homies in the United States, you can visit this site to register to vote – https://vote.gov/. Every state except for North Dakota requires that you register prior to voting.
Once you are registered, you simply need to find your polling place and show up on voting day with a valid ID. If you live in the US and do not have a photo ID, many states will give you a free voter ID card. You will need to visit your local DMV to get one.
If you want to avoid waiting in line at the polls on election day, you can vote early. Yep, you can fill your ballot out at home and just mail it in. This site – https://www.usa.gov/election-office – will take you to the election website for your home state. Once on your state’s site, you will have to do a little searching to find out how you can vote early. For many states, the process is the same as voting absentee.
Barack Obama gave a rather pointed speech at the University of Illinois earlier this week. It lasted more than an hour, but there was one part in particular that stood out to me. To quote the president:
“People ask me all the time, ‘So, what are you going to do about the elections?’ The question is what are you going to do.”
And as another famous Illinois politician once said, our country is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
It’s our country. It’s time we voted like it.
See you at the polls.
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