Your Vote is Your Voice: Perspective from Tim Cuddigan

 

Your vote matters. I believe it is important to vote, because it is so much more than just expressing your opinion. I think Lyndon Johnson, our 36th President, summed it up best when he said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”

I have heard some people say “my one vote will not make a difference”. In the national presidential race your vote may be one drop of rain, but in state and local elections (which have the most impact on your life); your vote is a bucket of water. Elections for school board members, city council representatives, judges, tax proposals, and many other elections have often been decided by a mere handful of votes. Your vote does matter.

Regrettably, too few Americans exercise their right to vote. In the 2012 presidential election only about 58 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. Today approximately one in four eligible Americans are not even registered to vote. According to demos.org, unregistered voters “are disproportionately low-income voters, people of color, and younger Americans.” 

Unlike other countries in the world, where voting is a requirement and non-voters can face stiff penalties and sanctions, in the U.S. voting is up to the individual. I know that not voting can be an expression of a political opinion, but I feel strongly that voting is a responsibility. I believe that voting is not necessarily about supporting a specific party, candidates or even ballot issues. Voting is about supporting the idea of free choice. It is an expression of our rights as American citizens. Voting is a reaffirmation of our treasured American system where power changes hands peacefully and at the will of the people.

In the first days of our country, voting was not as inclusive as we know it today. Many people are surprised to learn that voting was not fully guaranteed by the original U.S. Constitution. Voting, however, is so important that the Constitution has been amended five times to expand voting rights. The 14th amendment ratified in 1868 granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. This amendment was soon followed by the 15th amendment in 1870 which was intended to guarantee African-American men the right to vote. It reads, in part, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." But it would take nearly a century for the voting rights of minorities to be fully realized. In 1920 the number of eligible voters more than doubled when the 19th amendment guaranteed that “The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” At last, women were welcomed into America’s voting booths. Prior to 1964 voters in some states had to pay for the privilege of voting. It was called a poll tax and it was intended to prevent those who couldn’t afford the poll tax—poor whites and African-Americans—from voting. Passage of the 24th amendment made poll taxes illegal and finally gave minorities the full voting rights promised by the 15th amendment. The final voting amendment was championed with the phrase: “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” In 1971 with the U.S. embroiled in the Vietnam War, young men denied the right to vote were being conscripted to fight overseas. Many Americans thought this was unjust and championed the 26th amendment which lowered the voting age to 18. It has been a long and hard march to inclusiveness in the voting booth. I think we should honor those who battled for our rights by voting. Don’t you?

Since you are reading this blog, you probably care about Social Security’s future. Given the pressures on both the Social Security retirement fund and the disability fund, how our politicians address Social Security’s needs in the next few years will be critically important to you and millions of your fellow Americans. I urge you to learn where both local and national candidates stand on Social Security. Here is a place to start: AARP has posted on its website the positions of both major Presidential candidates (Trump and Clinton) on Social Security.
 
My final reason that you should vote is that it is easier now than ever. With the expansion of absentee voting you can vote by mail and you won’t have to take time away from your work or family to go to a polling place. 

Your vote is your voice. Be heard.

Timothy J. Cuddigan
Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience
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