Voting by citizens should be encouraged, not impeded

Elle Rathbun Enlarge photo

Elle Rathbun

The United States, as a democratic republic, relies on adult citizens voting for representatives of their communities as well as for the commander-in-chief of their nation.

Our country’s future relies not only upon the fingertips of its citizens, but upon the availability of the means of voting as well.

Fewer than 71 percent of voting-age citizens were registered to vote in 2008, and not quite 64 percent actually voted in the election. Almost 75 million people could not or simply did not vote for their own country’s leader. The purpose of the government, according to John Locke’s interpretation of the social contract theory, is to protect the rights of the people, and according to Thomas Hobbes’ interpretation, to represent the will of all.

In this case, the government, instead of representing the will of all, represents the will of a slight majority – the majority who is able and willing to vote.

During the election of 2004, in a small town called Gambier, Ohio, the public only had two voting machines to use. People waited for hours to cast their votes and contribute to the shape of their own futures.

Should voting be an ordeal? Should our fellow citizens or we have to face the possibility of suffering in order to have a say in our representative government? No, there should be enough means of voting so every adult citizen has the ability of voting without consequences in his or her daily life.

The state of Florida, in an effort to stop non-citizens from voting, sent out letters to people they recognized as ineligible to vote. Unfortunately, citizens also received these letters of ineligibility. According to Gov. Rick Scott, such people had 30 days to respond and prove their citizenship.

Florida continued to try to gain access to registration records in April and May, but the Department of Justice sent a letter saying that the “purge” fails to comply with federal law. On June 6, Florida responded in another letter defending its actions, and five days later, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Florida.

Also on June 11, the state of Florida filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security because the department did not assist Florida in identifying noncitizen voters.

The state’s motive to rid the voting population of noncitizens does not present the problem; the federal government recognizes the side effects of the purging as problematic. Florida cannot purge illegal voters if it also infringes on the rights of citizens.

Critics also believe that Scott’s motive may also be to disqualify those who may vote Democratic in the upcoming election, although Scott claims intentions are “nonpartisan.”

Furthermore, some who may feel uneasy about increasing the availability of voting and voting machines to the public may claim or speculate about voter fraud, otherwise known as electoral fraud.

Voter fraud, which can occur by people using false identities, buying votes or tampering with electronic machines, is quite unlikely and usually does not affect the outcome of the election.

Recently, Reince Priebus and other Republicans of Wisconsin claimed there were many cases of voter fraud during the state election. After an extended, thorough investigation in 2008, however, only 20 people were charged with election fraud. This investigation was brought about by claims similar to Priebus’. In order for Priebus to win this election, people must have fabricated tens of thousands of ballots.

On the other end of the spectrum, some wonder if voting should be mandatory for all adult citizens. Unfortunately, requiring people to vote forces their rights and the government on them rather than protecting their rights for them. Also, more unenlightened people will vote, perhaps randomly, resulting in the risk of regretting the representatives for whom the people voted.

Rather than having either too few people voting because of the limited number of voting machines or an unenlightened sovereignty, polling places should offer a sufficient number of voting machines so people can quickly and easily exercise their right to vote and cast their ballots.

As a democratic republic in which we vote for our representatives, everyone of age should be able to vote quickly and easily.

Elle Rathbun is co-news editor at at El Diablo, the Durango High School student newspaper. Her parents are Paul Rathbun and Vicki Kuan of Durango.