Today is election day, and if there is one thing about which the Republicans and Democrats on my Facebook Newsfeed agree, it is that voting is your all-important civic duty and you have no right to complain for the next four years if you don’t vote.
I get it. Voting is important. But casting a ballot does not mean that you have done everything possible to be a responsible citizen. It means you filled in a bubble on a piece of paper. Whether or not you were educated and voting in a principled way for the sake of the public good rather than your own private interest is a distinct concept from just the act of voting itself, and making a well-educated, principled vote for the sake of the public good is not all there is to performing your civic duty.
If civic duty was defined by filling in bubbles in a polling booth, then we just might be in about as much trouble as a country as we are right now. But the reality is that civic duty goes way beyond getting to the polls. It involves charitably serving your community, strengthening and contributing to your family, being informed on issues in all levels of government, and working to make sure that you do all you can to influence the choices of our democracy in what you think to be the right direction. That is a lot more than just voting.
There are a lot of reasons why someone might not vote. They might see a conflict of interest and rightfully abstain, not like any of the options presented, or fundamentally disagree with the principles on which the whole system operates.
I didn’t vote this year because I see a system that is broken on many levels and needs to be fixed. I also didn’t vote because I did not like any of the options presented (even down ticket). My vote is not enough to overcome those issues. As much as I like the Constitution Party candidate, my vote really isn’t actually going to matter.
What does matter, however, is a person’s voice. Your vote has a fixed value, but your voice has the potential to turn the majority in the right direction.
It is easier to pretend that filling in bubbles is the extent of your civic duty. It is easy to get the warm fuzzies, then go about your daily life the other 364 days of the year without “civic duty” ever crossing your mind.
But after America picks its poison tonight I will continue to speak up about the way things should be in hopes that it just might make more of a difference than one futile vote. I hope that you will continue to do the same after today.
If you are voting today as an educated citizen making a principled choice, then I commend you even if we disagree politically. But let no voter tell a person who abstains from participating in a broken system that they have no right to speak out against that system, for the person abstaining just might be doing more to contribute to their society than a vote could ever accomplish.
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