“Is Voting a Right, Privilege, or Obligation?”
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Preamble to the United States Constitution
Upon reaching the age of maturity, you receive a new set of rights that come with adulthood, which are not previously granted to minors. If you ask someone about these rights, or which they believe is most important, many will say “The right to vote, of course.” However, the role in which voting plays in society is often debated. Some say it is a privilege or obligation, rather than a right. Some say it’s none of them- and others say it can be considered all three. The answer may vary from person to person.
Although it can be argued, voting is considered to be closest to a right than a privilege or obligation. While voting itself is not explicitly deemed a constitutional right or in The Bill of Rights, The United States Constitution does in fact refer to it as a right- several times. On multiple accounts, the Constitution mentions “rights of the people.” However, one can infer that the Constitution in its entirety IS the rights of the people. Amendment XV Section 1 states: “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.” Referring to voting as a right. This enabled African-Americans to vote, after the creation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Amendment XIX states: “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 sex.” Once again, referring to voting as a right. This enabled women to vote. Amendment XXIV states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election […] shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.” Yet again, note the language used. Finally, Amendment XXVI, states: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” The voting age was then lowered from 21 to 18. Every single time voting is mentioned within The Constitution, it is referred to as a right. Voting is, without a doubt, a right of American citizens as clearly expressed within the document.
Voting in America cannot be an obligation. The Founding Fathers modeled the system of this country in such a way where the government would not become tyrannical and, in the case that it did, gave citizens the right to overthrow said government. We were given a set of rules and freedoms to adhere by. Being that The United States of America was founded as a free country, compulsory voting laws would be in violation of our natural rights by imposing legal threats against the free will of citizens. We are intended to be free, and as such, mandatory voting should not exist. Not to mention all the potential problems in which could come from that. While voting is in fact widely regarded as one’s civic duty, that is an individual’s own responsibility to themselves, their society, and the country in which they live. By revoking the freedom to vote, it would be seen as a burden rather than as a right of the people. Forcing people to do something will not provide better results. Ultimately, it would end up with blind voting, rather than people making educated political decisions. The same can be said of any right – it cannot be forced upon you. You cannot be forced to exercise your second amendment, for example. Alas, it cannot be taken from you either, with the exception of jail. Obligatory voting would be disastrous to the American government.
There are murky waters in whether or not voting is a privilege. Perhaps in some countries, yes, for they have different systems than ours. However, our Founding Fathers made a heavy emphasis on freedom upon the bloody separation from Great Britain. American citizens were granted rights typically not given in other countries during that time period. Prior, the world was filled with monarchies, empires, & dictatorships. To prevent America from falling into the same scenario as British rule, The Constitution provided a foundation that would be upheld above all else, for it was the law of the land, above any other. The Founding Fathers had clearly intended for voting to be the right of American citizens. Now, the debate exists on whom would be defined as an American citizen, since it began with white property-owning men. The debate never existed on whether or not a citizen could vote, but rather, whether or not one could claim to be a citizen in the first place. Keeping that in mind, the sensible conclusion to make would be that citizens are entitled to vote, and therefore, it cannot be a privilege. Not when when ALL citizens are entitled to it.
Since the Constitution itself refers to voting as a right, it’s safe to say that it is. Especially when the two other options can be easily debunked. Voting is most easily defined as an American right in most cases.