top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Should Everyone Vote?

Once again, albeit this time the day of the election instead of the following morning, people are calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. This perennial discussion usually raises questions about the underlying reasons behind having an electoral college, the relevance of 18th century political constructs to our 21st century world, and the wisdom of the founding fathers.

The founders embedded many systems in the Constitution that they believe would lead to a fair and equitable government. Among these are the division of government into three distinct branches with a system of checks and balances, a provision for amending the Constitution, and of course, the Electoral College. There are other systems that have been abolished, modified, and replaced over the centuries. With regard to the election process, originally only free white male landowners could vote. Now adults of all colors, genders, and socioeconomic statuses can vote.

I think these changes are appropriate considering the way society has evolved since the late 18th century. At that time, the founders essentially allowed for one vote per household. The household was representative of the family which was the basic unit of society at that time.

Women and slaves shared the same household with the free white male landowner, so his vote was representative of the household. Non-landowners were soon granted the right to vote and following the emancipation of the black Americans, they established their own autonomous households and were gradually permitted to vote. Women also eventually joined the voting ranks and now we have a system where everyone over the age of 18 is allowed to vote. This reflects the common 21st century viewpoint that the individual is the basic unit of society. In both cases, the basic unit of society was granted one vote.

Not only is everyone over 18 allowed to vote, many consider it a patriotic duty. I strongly disagree. Civic responsibility dictates that it is the duty of informed citizens to vote. Voting in ignorance does a disservice to the one's self and neighbors. Before going to the polls, it is one's civic duty to be informed about who and what are on the ballot and other necessary information as it pertains to one's particular decision. I think individuals can best choose whether to vote according to a candidate's character, a candidate's or party's record, a candidate's or party's platform, the voter's moral or religious beliefs, the voter's financial interests, the issues (e.g. education, gun rights, healthcare, national defense, etc.), or some other method. However, voters need to inform themselves according to whichever method they choose to use. I have seen firsthand too many people showing up to vote with gross misunderstandings of who is on the ballot, party platforms, and other basic information that they need to cast an informed ballot.

What is the solution to people voting in ignorance? That's the answer I don't have. There is a fine line between being responsible and disenfranchising voters. I am okay with people voting however they choose--any method for selecting their candidates and any candidates they choose. What I am not okay with is pressuring people to "do their civic duty" by submitting a ballot they do not understand. As a society, we advocate against people making healthcare decisions out of ignorance, financial decisions out of ignorance, and legal decisions out of ignorance. It's high time we approach our sacred system of elections with the same diligence.


bottom of page