The United States was founded upon a Declaration of Independence that states every person has “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
This consent is the privilege we, the governed people, have to vote. Voting is a fundamental process in a democratic system. The authority of the government originates from the votes of the people in free and fair elections. In addition to electing leaders, the polling booth is where citizens voice their choice on policy issues in referendums and initiatives. This is most especially important at the local level.
Members of PACB shared their thoughts on voting as part of a democracy:
“It is our civic duty to vote,” says Brendan McGill, President and CEO, Harleysville Bank, Harleysville, PA. “There are more consequences to not voting. We end up with policies not in line with our beliefs.”
Tom Bailey, President and CEO, Brentwood Bank in Bethel Park, PA, agrees. “Voting allows us to help set direction in our local communities. When few participate, special interest groups influence the outcome and things get off the rails. We need to keep our elected officials in check.”
“Our freedoms can be traced back to the founder’s idea of self-governing,” shares John Coleman, President & CEO, Tioga-Franklin Savings Bank, Philadelphia, PA. “We entrust governing to neighbors and friends. As long as we participate and vote, we stay self-governed.”
Voting is woven into the historical fabric of America. As our nation has grown and evolved, so has our definition of ‘every person.’
Four amendments to the Constitution expanded voting rights to African Americans, to women, eliminated poll taxes, and lowered the voting age to 18. Over the years, Federal laws have been passed to protect Americans’ right to vote and make it easier to exercise that vote, including the Civil Rights Act of 1870 (amended in1957, 1960, and 1964), the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Our right to vote was paid for by generations of Americans who fought to keep that privilege for future generations to come.
According to Pew Research Center, only 55.7% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 election. That means 44.3% of the population did not choose who is governing. And the numbers are lower for elections in non-presidential race years.
Amendments and laws are created because of the voices and votes of the people. Our lives are impacted by the decisions of the people we elect. Not only at a national level, but more importantly for our neighborhoods, school districts and states.
“When our nation was founded, allowing the people to elect their representatives was a novel idea,” Coleman says. “Unfortunately, the enthusiasm to vote has diminished over time. People must realize that there is no wrong vote. We all must vote.”
Coleman believes an increased turnout at the polls would result in easier acceptance of results and diminished division in our country.
“Do your research” encourages McGill. “Read independent sources and make decisions based on what you learn. Like I tell my kids, make sure you participate, respect others’ thoughts and ideas, and believe in the system — because it is the one that decides which freedoms you have.”
“It’s not a perfect system,” shares Bailey. “But every person has an opportunity to be involved. To help set the direction in which our communities and our country are headed.”
Vote on November 3 — it matters!
Diane M. Sweeney is a professional copywriter and content strategist. At her desk, overlooking Beaver Creek in Chester County, she enjoys writing articles and web content to inform, persuade and entertain. Her work can be found at www.dianemsweeney.com