Who Says I Can't Vote?
Support the Right to Vote
'Read My Lips: No New Taxes'
There's a chance, albeit a small one, that the 21st Century will usher in a new age of enlightenment -- at least in the age of voting rights.
In the days of our country's founding, it was generally believed by our leaders, who were property owners, that only property owners should be allowed to vote. They did not see fit to give the right to vote to slaves or women.
Eventually, however, amendments to the U.S. Constitution made it illegal to deny suffrage because of race, color or previous condition of servitude (15th), on account of sex (19th), or to any citizen 18 years of age or older (26th.)
Voting Deemed a Privilege
The right to vote has been deemed a privilege by federal, state and local legislatures, and so the franchise has not been extended to children and generally has been withheld from the mentally ill and convicted criminals.
But isn't the right to decide who will govern you really one that you're born with? Who is to say a very young person, someone whose mental capacity is below normal, or even a convicted criminal has no right to decide how he or she is governed?
What do authorities fear? That the young, mentally ill and convicted criminals will conspire to take over the world? That the mentally ill will vote for Napoleon Bonaparte? That the very young will vote for Mickey Mouse or Michael Jackson? That the convicted criminals will vote for John Gotti?
To Each His (or Her) Own
The truth is that each voter has his own reasons for deciding for whom to vote -- and they're not always rational! Some people vote for "the best man" regardless of party; others vote on the issues (How many people voted for "Read my lips" George (H.W.) Bush because they were opposed to a tax increase? How many people vote for anyone who says he'll cut taxes? How many votes did John Kennedy get because he was more handsome than Richard Nixon?)
If we're going to disenfranchise people because they're not capable of evaluating the issues and making rational judgments, why don't we ban from voting people who are too elderly or too sick to read the papers and keep up with the issues?
Why not take away the vote from people who spend a lot of time out of town, or who do not subscribe to the local newspaper? How about those obviously irrational people who declare publicly that there's not a dime's worth of difference between any of the candidates, pledging not to show up at the polls?
'Trust But Verify'
If we have the franchise, what should we base our vote on? The smartest guy? Nicest guy? The issues? Whom we can trust? Reagan, on foreign policy said, "Trust, but verify!" In voting, that translates to: Trust, but only if you can be assured the candidate will do as he says he'll do (political parties help to ensure they do!) Unfortunately, we're getting away from parties, and thus drifting away from the verification of candidates that helped make this country great!
Anybody who can drag himself to the polls, whether young, old, mentally diminished, or in jail, should be able to vote. Phony reasons for disenfranchising them, such as they'll be easily influenced or will vote for stupid reasons, just do not hold up to close examination.
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Nov. 15, 1997. I have not changed my mind on this issue. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.