Today, September 27, is National Voter Registration Day. It seems like there is a national day for everything, we have a national day for ice cream, donuts, pizza … the list is endless, you name it and somehow there is a day for it. But, if you think about it, this likely little known day means so much to so many and to our democracy. To honor the importance of National Voter Registration Day, the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law wants to ask you some important questions.
1) Why is your right to vote important?
That’s a question that we asked lawyers and law students and secondary school students. And of course, the answers we received were inspiring, extremely personal and heartfelt, and a testament to the belief that voting is your opportunity to have a say in your government and to effect change. It all seems rather easy and uncomplicated to say why our right to vote is important.
After all, we all know that voting is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is every citizen’s opportunity to make a difference and have a say in government at the local, state, and federal level, all of which affects every aspect of our lives. The American Bar Association is asking lawyers and law students, as leaders in the law and their communities, to vote and encourage your family and friends, colleagues, and community to vote.
Voting is an integral part of American citizenship. It is a fundamental right and privilege of democracy. When the United States of America was first founded, over 200 years ago, only a very limited part of the population was allowed to cast a ballot, and now nearly all citizens over the age of 18 are entitled to vote. Black’s Law Dictionary defines the word vote as “suffrage; the experience of one’s will, preference, or choice.” Indeed, our privilege to vote is the result of much hard fought battles and sacrifices by so many. To some voting is a political choice (i.e., individuals voting for issues or candidates based strictly on a particular political party affiliation), to others voting represents the voicing of an opinion for or against a particular issue or a candidate. It doesn’t matter how you vote, but rather that you vote.
2) Will you make your voice heard?
To many, this question is also easy to answer – “I will vote!” But, it is not enough to answer the question affirmatively and with passion, it also requires action on the part of the individual. It requires a valid voter registration and showing up at the polls on Election Day. Visit www.ambar.org/vote and use our map of states and territories to find out all the information you need to vote – voter registration and absentee ballot information and deadlines; hours and location of polling places; voter identification requirements, if any; volunteering at the polls; and much more information.
Register to Vote
In order to vote, in most states you must first be registered to vote in advance of Election Day, although 10 states (Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Wyoming) and the District of Columbia allow for same day registration at the polls. If you have moved recently, you need to make sure your voter registration information has been updated accordingly. If you are a student, make sure you are registered either at your home or where you go to school. Most states will allow you to confirm your voter registration status or update your contact information online.
Request an Absentee Ballot
If you are registered to vote and you know that you will be unable to vote on Election Day in person, you may request an absentee ballot to vote, either by mail, internet, or in person. You can find deadlines for every state and territory for requesting an absentee ballot. It’s a rather easy process, 1) you must request your ballot by the deadline mandated by your state, in order to ensure that you will be able to receive the ballot in a timely manner; and 2) you must also return your marked ballot by the deadline in order to ensure that it will be counted. Some states also allow for in person early voting in lieu of absentee voting.
If you are already registered to vote, a great way to be involved in our electoral process is to volunteer at the polls! You can fulfill your duty to civic responsibility and assist in the administration of elections at your local polling place. Election Day is coming up quickly and deadlines are fast approaching for volunteering at the polls, but if you visit www.ambar.org/vote you will also find the information you need to volunteer at the polls.
Another way to be involved is to encourage your family and friends, colleagues, and community to vote by distributing our “Will You Voice Be Heard on Election Day” card, which can be found at www.ambar.org/votercard. There are several different versions (hard copy, email, and customizable) that you can use to let people know how easy it is to vote. And again, we’re not advocating that people vote a certain way, just that they vote.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. We hope that you will visit our website at www.ambar.org/vote to get the information you need to vote and that you will vote, and that you will encourage others to vote! We are fortunate to live in a country where we can vote without fear of reprisal. The ongoing success and strength of democracy is through the expression of our individual voices. Also, if you enjoyed this article and if you want to help others get involved in our electoral process, please follow us on Twitter @ABAVoteNow. #voteyourvoice