|November 2, 2012|
Previously published on October 26, 2012
This past summer, we were treated to another round of thrilling Olympic sport. From the opening ceremonies, many of us were glued to the television, rooting for our national teams and for a few compelling personal stories. We cared deeply and emotionally for the athletes and willed them on with every positive thought we could muster. We followed every step, every heat, and every leap.
One of the great aspects of any sport is its ability to inspire us to strive farther, run faster and try harder. It's amazing what personal interest we take in the outcomes. But, if we consider it thoughtfully, whichever team wins or loses a sporting contest really doesn't have much of an effect on our lives. Wouldn't it be great if we put that much effort into the things that do matter and that will affect our daily lives, such as, perhaps, our vote?
While politicians currently debate about the rights and entitlements of non-citizens, we should not forget that our citizens' right to vote has not always been guaranteed. Despite the clear language of our founding documents, only property owners could vote before 1821. Women weren't allowed to vote until 1920. All Native Americans waited until 1924. African Americans didn't have full voting rights until 1964, and 18-20 year olds were allowed to fight for their country but not to vote until 1972. These voting rights — for women, minorities, and those who don't own property — were theoretically purchased with the blood and toil of our predecessors. But it took many more years of effort to make it a reality.
It's trite but true: Voting is not just a right; it's a responsibility.
It's trite but true: Voting is not just a right, it's a responsibility.
So, here we are again, just a few days away from an election. No matter which candidate you support, the most important part of any election is that you participate. Many who read this message won't need the reminder. You are part of the 10-30% of registered voters who regularly exercise the right to vote. For many of you, part of your regular activity includes reporting, commenting, analyzing and participating in the electoral process. Thank you for doing that. It's the other 70-90% of the registered voters we need to reach somehow. Hopefully, some of your efforts will embolden those who don't vote and inspire them to do so.
As we go about trying to motivate others to use their vote, don't underestimate the power of the small gesture. Talk to your friends, family, and acquaintances. For those of us who go to the courthouse or report on legal matters, we should make every effort to educate others about the qualities of a good judge because, here in Texas, judges are forced to run on a partisan ticket. Often, a straight ticket vote robs us of great judicial candidates from both parties. To avoid this disservice, we must encourage others to vote for those judicial candidates who have earned our respect and support. Sometimes, that encouragement is a one-on-one discussion, an email, or a card of support. Any way you can do it: our responsibility is not only to vote for these qualified candidates, but also to educate and encourage others to do the same.
So, I will leave you with my thanks for being involved, voting, and encouraging others to do so as well. Our democratic experiment cannot survive many years of voter apathy. Many of us have the privilege and the responsibility to encourage others to exercise their right to vote and, by doing so, making choices by action instead of acquiescence.
Vote early, vote your conscience, but most important of all: VOTE!