FIGHTING FOR OUR FUTURE:

A CALL FOR CIVIC ACTION

BY ARMAAN SOOD

June 13, 2020

The United States of America has a voting problem. Actually, the United States of America has many voting problems, each stemming from flaws in our previously invincible and superior democracy. Issues ranging from voter disenfranchisement to gerrymandering have shaken the very bedrock of American democracy and have exposed a constitutional crisis. The American government has effectively become a bureaucracy run by officials that in many situations were not elected on the basis of popular choice. Now, the obvious solution to these problems is to go to congress and introduce voter reform legislation that would finally extend the first amendment to everyone eligible and not just the privileged few that the system selects. Except, in many situations our legislative branch benefits from gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement and in most cases the problems are being perpetuated from this source. The subsequent most logical step would be to consider whether the executive branch could issue orders to restore the legitimacy of our first amendment and uphold the power of our constitution. However, it is the executive branch that is most

"American government has effectively become a bureaucracy run by officials that in many situations were not elected on the basis of popular choice."

notorious for its bureaucratic activity and only seeks the public’s opinion once every four years to remain in power, once again benefitting from the voter disenfranchisement plaguing the nation. The last branch of government that could offer any help on this issue would be the judicial branch, whose non-partisanship and responsibility to the constitution is reassuring. But the judicial branch rarely allows itself to get involved in voting issues in an effort to project the non-partisanship that our constitution has outlined for them. Sometimes even at the cost of disregarding the other constitutional responsibilities outlined in our country’s most sacred document. Fortunately, we have not exhausted all the options of holding our government accountable and seeking substantial change in the highest levels of government. The largest and most powerful branch of our government which is often the most underutilized still has the power to initiate and actualize real change. This powerful group is us... we the people. As John F. Kennedy once said “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

"The executive branch that is most notorious for its bureaucratic activity and only seeks the public’s opinion once every four years to remain in power, once again benefitting from the voter               disenfranchisement plaguing the nation."

"Our ballot is a representation of each individual and their problems and concerns and should be treated as such."

At a time when our country is going through an identity crisis as we protest historic and current injustices ravaging our communities, we are seeing first-hand the power of civic engagement and its potential to influence much needed change in our society. Of course, civic engagement and action starts with our right to vote. Voting not just in national elections and not just for the office of the Presidency, but voting in every election no matter whether we perceive it to be big or small. Voting not along party lines, but rather truly taking the time to research each candidate on the ballot and evaluating our beliefs and concerns against theirs, and then voting for the person who truly embodies what we stand for. Voting not just for the mainstream politicians because we believe it is our “safest bet”,  but voting for an underdog who truly cares about our problems. Our ballot is a representation of each individual and their problems and concerns and should be treated as such.

"We as citizens must aspire to make full use of our rights and ensure that we serve as advocates for those that are oppressed by the very system that we benefit from."

Unfortunately, this is not the case in our imperfect democracy. Other than the systemic problems that intentionally prevent maximum voter turnout, there is another major problem beleaguering American citizens; voter apathy. The most concerning aspect of this apathy is that it is most affecting younger Americans. According to the United States Census Bureau only 46.1% of eligible American voters in the 18-29 age bracket voted in the 2016 election. It appears as though faith in our government and constitution is slowly eroding in society as each generation enters the voting age. The voter disaffection is not translating into higher voter turnout rates. As individuals it is of the utmost importance that we reflect on our intrinsic right to vote and our reasons for doing or not doing so. It is our responsibility to increase civic literacy not just for ourselves but for others. We as citizens must aspire to make full use of our rights and ensure that we serve as advocates for those that are oppressed by the very system that we benefit from.

"In our flawed democracy where not everyone is treated as equal and not every ballot carries the same consequences."

However it doesn’t just stop there. In our flawed democracy where not everyone is treated as equal and not every ballot carries the same consequences, it is our job to look to other methods of civic engagement to “form a more perfect union”. As Barack Obama once stated, “In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it”.  It is paramount to remember that there are other ways to stay civically active to change the country for the better. Never forget the millions of Americans that mobilized in the face of injustice to fight for their rights and the right to be heard. Whether it was the Civil Rights movement, the Suffrage movement, the LGBTQ+ movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, or any other one of America’s most remarkable demonstrations of civic engagement, always remember and celebrate the power of each individual’s voice and the power of civic engagement. Remember that the government’s responsibility is to serve the people and our responsibility is to hold the government accountable. As Margaret Mead stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Please visit https://www.vote.org/ to register to vote and for more information on voting. Make sure to request a mail-in ballot if possible due to uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and to ensure accessible voting.