Our right to vote

By John R. Allen

In recognition of our shared, sacred rights, and to help bridge the many divides we’re experiencing as a people, I implore all U.S. citizens to exercise their right to vote this Tuesday, November 6.

For much of my adult life, I served my country abroad in places where democracy was either a long-ago memory or distant idea.  These were regions that had known generations of cruel dictatorships and corrupt governance structures, where the notion of free political thought was utterly foreign and often deemed unthinkable or dangerous to those who gripped power so tightly.  And in those places, where nascent democracies were struggling to take root, I was frequently reminded of the precious gift Americans have been given: a democracy, with the freedom for every citizen to vote in peaceful elections as part of our democratic process.

Midterm SeriesOur foundational right to vote is central to our need to continually work to protect, preserve, and strengthen our democracy.  This is something for which I have fought nearly my entire life to uphold. We, as Americans, have paid a significant price for our freedom and our form of government, but we should regularly remind ourselves that democracy is by no means inevitable. Yet today our right to vote, and our belief in the inevitability of our democratic system, are too often taken for granted.

The United States is grounded upon the idea that individuals are owed the equal opportunity to voice their opinion as we, through our elected officials, chart the course of our nation.  This idea is foundational to our American values and informs a great deal about what it means to be a citizen of the United States.  And while we have important work to do to remove barriers to voting, improve voter access and enforce the rights of all voters to make their voices heard and their votes to count, we cannot allow these challenges to derail our urgency to vote in the first place.

The right to vote for representatives that benefit the greater interest of the country is entirely nonpartisan.  In this manner voting is, foundationally, a nonpartisan issue, and should always remain as such.  And just as Brookings is a nonpartisan institution, we will always continue to support an individual’s right to choose elected officials and policies that are best suited to the broader interests of her or his community.  At Brookings, we live by the notion that all individuals are owed the right to independently share their views.  It’s a part of our Brookings values, and informs the way we view issues impacting everything from the future of the middle class, to tax policy and urban planning, to global development and Middle East peace.

Much of the scholarship Brookings has been producing around the 2018 midterms explores how voters are approaching the politicians and issues on the ballot this fall. A common thread, whether we’re looking at voters in a particular geographic area or from a specific demographic, is that these are not typical midterm elections by almost any objective measure. As I reflect on the scale of both the challenges and opportunities ahead for our country and our world, I am struck by the opportunity that every American has to make a tangible impact next Tuesday. Every vote cast on November 6 makes a difference to a candidate, to a community, and, ultimately, to America. But voting also makes an affirmative statement about who we are as a people. Active participation in our democracy, based on the fundamental belief that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights,” is among the greatest contributions you and I can make as U.S. citizens. Over the course of our lives, we’ll all serve our families, our communities and our nation in different ways, but under our precious Constitution, we all, every American, can serve the democratic process in exactly the same way:  by voting.  Your vote matters. It is your voice, it is your impact, and it is your direct and personal support to the strength and the future of our Democracy.

So, please, make time to vote.  Vote for leaders who represent your community to the fullest.  Vote in support of the American democracy for which we’ve paid such a huge price, and that gave us this freedom in the first place.  Vote for a better tomorrow.

But most importantly, and no matter your political views – vote.

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