Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy National Voter Registration Day!

Celebrated: Nationwide in the United States

The right to vote is the most basic benefit of American citizenship, but six million Americans didn't vote in 2008 because they didn't know how to register, or didn't register in time. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (the "motor-voter law") requires all 50 states to let people register to vote when they get their drivers' licenses, but that assumes that all Americans have drivers' licenses, and that's just not true. People who don't have drivers' licenses tend to be old and/or poor and/or living in places well-served by public transportation (i.e., cities).

For all the attention being paid to efforts to prevent voter fraud (which the nonpartisan Brennan Center says is about as rare as being struck and killed by lightning), the rate of non-registration of eligible voters is much higher, and a much more serious challenge to the goal of a free, self-governing society.

Are you registered to vote? Find out here, and follow the links to register if you're not. Make sure your voting address is up to date, and take a minute today to figure out what might have changed about your voting district since the last election. Here in Maine, as in most of the country, we've redistricted as a result of the 2010 Census; my own address moved from Maine's 1st Congressional District to the 2nd, so I'm going to an event on Thursday night to meet my Congressman for the very first time.

Over the past 236 years, millions have given their lives, in one way or another, to win all U.S. citizens the right to cast a ballot. It's the one and only thing that truly defines us as Americans. Once you've figured out whether you're registered to vote, ask your relatives, friends and neighbors whether they are — even, or especially, if you expect them to vote differently from you. Achieving your own policy agenda because the opposition is silent isn't democracy; it's tyranny. I don't want to be a tyrant. Do you?

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