Does every eligible citizen really have the right to vote?

Hannah Layden, Contributing Writer

Every eligible U.S. citizen has the constitutional right to vote, and in theory every person’s vote counts the same, regardless of age, sex, race, or ethnicity. The democratic system in this country is designed so that every voice is heard and no opinion is more important than another. On Election Day, it is imperative to cast our votes for the candidate with whom our ideals most closely align. Hopefully, prior to voting, we have become informed about the issues facing our country and the world today and have carefully come to a conclusion. It means that we are knowledgeable citizens of the United States.

However, America also uses this thing called the Electoral College. When we cast our votes on Election Day, we are not voting directly for a presidential candidate. Instead, we are casting votes for the elected members of our states who will in turn vote for the next president. These electors are not senators or representatives. Rather, each party in each state usually creates a slate of those who they feel are qualified to cast votes on behalf of the rest of the inhabitants of the state.

These people are often state party leaders. There is no constitutional provision that binds the electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote. Some states, on the other hand, do have laws about voting in agreement with the popular vote. These can be pursued in one of two ways: by pledging to a political party or to the state itself. Some states have provisions that if an elector votes contrary to the popular vote or to his or her pledge, that elector can be fined or removed from their position. Throughout U.S. history, 99 percent of electors have voted in accordance with their pledges.

The Constitution guarantees the right to vote, and the Electoral College has previously represented the wishes of the people. In theory, our democratic system is fair for everyone and awards equal opportunities. In reality, this is not necessarily the case. People living in impoverished areas do not always have the same access to resources or the educational means to learn how to vote.

According to Pew Research, only 53.6 percent of the voting age population actually voted in 2012. This statistic trails a number of other developed countries. In some countries, the government automatically registers its citizens once they are of age; in others, the government seeks out eligible citizens who have not yet registered. In the United States, this is largely the responsibility of the individual. Some residents do not have the capability to become registered or mobilize themselves to arrive at a voting location.

If you are fortunate enough to be a registered voter, you have a civic responsibility to vote. My hope is that you have analyzed the candidates’ stances on the issues and are ready to make an informed decision. This election, as the ones before it, will change the economy, the social climate, and the country as a whole. You have the opportunity to make your political opinions known and vote based on what you believe is right. This opportunity is not one to pass up.

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