Right to vote

With the pivotal upcoming Presidential election only 59 days from today, students on the Missouri Southern campus have a significant and consequential decision to make about who they want to see as our next President. For many, this year’s election will be the first time they have exercised their RIGHT to vote. 

But is voting actually a right? Or is it a privilege, or maybe even a responsibility?

For the ease of readership, I will define the necessary terms.

Privilege (n): A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantaged of most.

Right (n): That which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, or moral principles.

Responsibility (n): Being answerable or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.

On the surface, it’s easy to view these terms as mutually exclusive. From their definitions, we can see that what is a “privilege” cannot be a right since rights are enjoyed by everyone, while a privilege is reserved for a select group. Likewise, it’s impossible for an individual to take on the burden of responsibility if they lack to the right to vote in the first place.

Despite this initial judgment, many people view the ability to vote as all three simultaneously and weigh “right” after “privilege” or “responsibility.” For example, many believe the ability to vote is a privilege granted to today’s eligible voters by those who fought for it in the past either through war, grassroots movements, or legislative battles. 

These struggles have kept the United States as an independent nation and granted us the right to vote with the passage of the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendment, in addition to the legislative victory of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

From this perspective, it is a privilege to live in the United States, standing on the shoulders of these past giants, and we have a responsibility to vote because it honors those who have put their lives on the line to protect it.

Which constitutional right is the most important? You might answer “freedom of speech” or “free exercise” of religion. 

Some think it’s “the right to keep and bear arms.” Criminal lawyers think of the guarantee against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” trial lawyers of jury trial in civil cases.

But which right appears most often in the Constitution’s text?

It’s “the right to vote.” 

Whatever, your opinion on the topic at hand might be, mine is clear. It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you do it.