Thursday, October 9, 2008

A priviledge, a right, or a responsibility?

I came across this article in the New York Times today. It talks about how election officials are trying to purge voter registration records and may be doing so illegally.

From the article:

"In the year ending Sept. 30, election officials in Nevada, for example, used the Social Security database more than 740,000 times to check voter files or registration applications and found more than 715,000 nonmatches, federal records show. Election officials in Georgia ran more than 1.9 million checks on voter files or voter registration applications and found more than 260,000 nonmatches."

As we see here, using the Social Security Database produces questionable results and should only be done as a last resort.

In the United States, we talk about having "the right to vote." As an American, I am supposed to be able to vote in an election. Is that really true? No, it is not. As an American, we can lose the right to vote if convicted of a felony. In some cases, that loss can be permanent. In the state of North Carolina, anyone over the age of 16 is sentenced as an adult. Period. No discussion. Let's use an example here...Duwayne. He's 16. He has some older friends his mom would prefer he didn't associate with. He gets swept up in the peer pressure of being cool. He is involved in an armed robbery with these unsavory friends (in NC, I believe it's an automatic 7 years jail time). He's only 16. If he's shown the right track, he might be able to turn his life around, go to college, give back to the community, be a role model for someone like him. However, Duwayne has lost the "right" to make his voice heard before he was ever allowed to use that "right." If we think about two specific characteristics that could describe a majority of those in the prison system, regardless of the state, what comes to mind for me would be either poor or black. This reeks of classicism and racism. These are the individuals who most need their voices heard. Instead, the government takes away that "right" for at least a part of their adult lives. If this truly is a right, then how can they take it away? Voting is our responsibility, but it is more a privilege than a right.

The election officials are now going to inadvertently disenfranchise even more individuals at this polls this year simply because they did not follow proper procedure.

Riding the bus gives me a daily reminder that there are so many more people out there that live nothing like I do. It reminds me that there are so many people that didn't grow up with a stay-at-home mom, a cookie cutter house in the suburbs, an SUV and a country club pool to swim in during summer breaks. Few people we allowed to attend a $12,000 a year (in 1990!) private college, without scholarship money or student loans. Riding the bus has been the best reminder for me of the need for social responsibility. It is important that we look out for every member of our community, regardless of who, or what, they may be.

Here's some further reading for you.
Losing The Vote; The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws In The United States

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're a good-hearted person! We do need those little reminders now and then, don't we?