Is Voting a Right or a Responsibility?

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Million of Americans will earn their “I Voted” stickers on Election Day this Nov. 3. While voting is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, many also think it’s a responsibility for people to exercise that right. (Photo courtesy of Element5 Digital/Unsplash)

Nico Wenis, Reporter

America is more politically divided now than ever, and young voters must act. The freedom for all people to gain the right to vote has been a long and uphill battle, not something to be taken lightly. Especially as young people, eligible voters must use their voice.

According to a report from the Washington Post shortly after the 2016 election, roughly 100 million voters opted out of filling a ballot — 43% of eligible voters. Many have heard it before — people believing that their vote doesn’t matter, that the results of an election are not on their shoulders. But it isn’t so clear cut. Here’s why every vote matters. 

Michael Sturges, a social studies teacher at Nonnewaug, said that each person is in a slice of a demographic. Whether one is young, old, Black, White, or any number of characteristics, everyone is a part of a demographic, and therefore a representative of that demographic to politicians. 

“When you vote, you also enhance the importance of your group,” said Sturges.

Sturges stated that whenever a slice of one’s demographic votes, suddenly they’re more important, so that demographic’s voice matters and must be listened to by politicians.

“Young people do not vote to the same extent older people do, and consequently young people are ignored,” Sturges said.

Voting is a right that was fought for over generations, but is voting also a responsibility? Kyle Brennan, another social studies teacher at Nonnewaug, said that American citizens must balance their rights with their responsibilities. 

“You have the right to freedom of speech, but you also have the responsibility to not use that speech dangerously,” Brennan said. “For example, you can’t run into a crowded movie theater and yell ‘fire’ if there isn’t actually a fire. That is not protected by free speech.”

Brennan reminds that while nobody can penalize you for not voting, he believes that it is a civic duty. Brennan said that he has never missed an election because it’s a proud moment to take an active part in a community. 

Sturges agreed that voting is as much of a responsibility as it is a right.

“It’s a responsibility to represent other members of your group by contributing to your democratic power by voting,” Sturges said. He added that not only is voting is an effective way to reach politicians, but “it’s the only way. There is one way to get listened to, and that is to be a voter. Otherwise, they can and should ignore you.”

Some Nonnewaug students are now eligible to vote in the election Nov. 3, and others will be eligible to vote within the next couple of years.

Woodbury town clerk Linda Carlson encouraged students to “step up to the plate and make up your own mind. … Get the facts and do your homework.”

Brennan and Sturges agreed.

“I would certainly encourage any students who are able to vote in this election, or whenever your first election comes up, don’t take that right for granted,” Brennan said, “because it’s something many people in the world still don’t have and there are many people in American history who were not fortunate enough to have it.”

“There is so guarantee that America remains a democracy and voting is really the only peaceful way to do that,” Sturges said. “So please do that.”