Vol. 41 No. 2
Matthew Gorney, a 3L at the University of Kansas School of Law, is Secretary-Treasurer of the ABA Law Student Division.
Another old saying offers that it is impossible to make all people happy all of the time, and that is true. It’s never difficult to find someone unhappy with something, but during an election year it’s exceptionally easy.
Election years are when the direction of our country is determined. Issues are discussed and debated by candidates and the general public alike. More recently, social media has expanded the voices of those in the general public.
It’s important for each of those voices to be heard, regardless of the popularity of what they are saying. Those differing viewpoints allow us, as a country, to engage in the robust debate necessary to the proper functioning of a representative democracy. However, that proper functioning requires one additional step—actually getting out to vote.
In the 2008 presidential election, 146 million people—71 percent of the eligible population—reported as having registered to vote and 90 percent of those registered reported actually voting according to a 2009 press release from the US Census Bureau.
Doing the basic math based on the Census Bureau’s numbers, that means 131.4 million people reported voting in the 2008 presidential election. That is 63.78 percent of the eligible population. As the cornerstone of the representative democracy, that number is not high enough.
So as future lawyers, what can we do to increase that number? The answer is simple and comes naturally to many law students and lawyers—talk.
Discussing voting with friends, family, or random people on the bus is the best way to emphasize the importance of our fundamental right. And if that doesn’t work, remind anyone who didn’t vote (but was eligible) that they shouldn’t criticize. After all, the non-voter had a chance to make his or her voice heard and opted to remain silent. But discussions can only go so far without action, so be sure to actually vote.
Now, back to those certainties, and yes, there are few of them in life. One additional certainty is that citizens of the United States are invested with an implied duty to vote. And anyone who accepts that duty is rewarded with the right—in a civil manner—to disagree with the result.
As citizens, voting is our way of holding accountable those we place in positions of authority. Your failure to vote gives those people permission to ignore your voice. By voting, your opinion may or may not be accepted but it must be listened to.
Come November 6, make certain to vote and encourage others to do the same. It doesn’t matter if you have to re-register somewhere new or request an absentee ballot from where you are registered. Just exercise your ability to vote, because that’s what really matters.