Saturday, April 13, 2024

McHugh David: Voting – A right, or a privilege?

by BIZ Magazine

Polls have lost a bit of their luster in recent years.

The 24-hour news cycle, such that it is, and social media have made polling a very difficult job due to the constant flow of information that, in many cases, is ever-changing.

But, there are some polling companies and non-profits who continue to ‘fight the good fight’ and roll out new polls, based on current events, just as quickly and as best as they can.

Recently, the Pew Research Center – which was considered one of the premier polling outfits, pre-social media – released polling data on how Americans felt about voting. Is it a right? Or is it a privilege?

First, the results from Pew which were – interesting. Typically, self-identified Republican voters skewed more toward ‘privilege’ while self-identified Democrat voters said ‘right.’

Another interesting twist is age – older voters tended to lean toward ‘privilege’ while younger voters said ‘right.’

Now, the most important part – what does the law of the land say? Simply – it doesn’t.

There are no constitutional amendments that say, specifically, that voting is an inherent ‘right’ for American citizens. Conversely, there are several constitutional amendments that do state protected classes – such as race or sex – must be allowed access to polling places as a ‘right to vote.’

They don’t have to be informed of an election, told about an election, transported to an election, given time outside the certified election period, or anything of that sort – a voter must be allowed access to a poll if they show up during the designated period, the end.

The reader may be thinking, ‘that sounds like a right to me.’ It’s close, but what it lacks is the ‘inform’ portion. When you’re arrested, don’t you have to be informed of your rights? They are, in fact, your rights.

It’s also important to note that, in the case of a presidential election, electors are under the power of the state administration and legislature. While we do have a representative form of government, this still is an underlying theme of subverting the popular vote.

This gray area is exactly why the debate exists – which one is it? At this point, there are no legal ramifications or answers for the question, and it’s become a battle at two levels – Republican states are pushing for more voter control after belief that the 2020 election was stolen, or at least manipulated.

Per the Pew Research poll, Republicans tend to believe voting is more a privilege than a right, so more restrictive measures make sense to them – if you want to vote, put in the effort.

On the other level, Democrats (both state and federally) are trying to push for an overhaul to the election process, and also looking to formulate the ability to vote as a ‘right’ which would change – well, it would change a lot, from voting information, to voter registration, to the act of voting itself (which would probably go more digital).

So which is it – is going to the polls and being involved in the electoral process a right or a privilege?

It’s both.

There are readers who are going to absolutely hate the answer, and that’s fair. Identity politics have become so prevelant that it’s difficult to say ‘that side has good points’ and ‘this side has good points.’ But… they do.

Many Republicans cite the lack of ‘civics’ in high school as a reason for ‘controlled voting.’ Make civics a required course, although some places it already is (including Livingston Parish) and make voter registration part of the course. If students are under 18, make it a time-release deal.

Going further, citizens should have equal access to polls to cast their vote. Just because you live in a majorly urban area or a distant rural one – citizens should have access to polls.

Finally, education – what decisions and real control are individuals giving up by not voting? Explain it plainly.

After that? Well, what’s the saying? You can lead a horse to water.

If individuals decide not to vote, that’s where the buck stops. They’ve been given access and information, nothing more can be done.

Because it is a right to be able to vote, it’s a privilege to do it on election day (or early, if you so choose).

Per usual, the answer is a little ‘Column A’ and a little ‘Column B’ but getting two parties to agree, these days, is a lesson in futility.

McHugh David is publisher of the Livingston Parish News.

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