Voting is more than a right - it's a responsibility

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Myers
  • 49th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
That's right, as citizens of a democracy, you have rights. The U.S. Constitution and its first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights, outline the basic rights and freedoms we enjoy as American citizens. Protection under the law, freedom to live, work, and worship, and the right to pursue liberty and a high quality of life are the privileges of living in a democracy. Our elected officials pass laws to maintain those rights and freedoms within the construct of the Constitution.

In addition to having rights, you have responsibilities. Lawmakers are elected by the people. Their campaigns are funded by revenue generated by you and me - citizens of our democracy. We enjoy our rights, because we give the necessary attention to our responsibility to play an active role maintaining our democracy. Voting is one of those specific responsibilities.

As military members, we have an especially compelling responsibility to participate in electing our nation's leaders. Whether active duty military, civilian, or government contractor, we are an important part of the tools our nation uses to preserve our democratic way of life. We have been engaged in the war on terror for six years, and will continue fighting and rebuilding democracies abroad for the foreseeable future. As Air Force members, we've been engaged in battle overseas for more than 16 years. Most Air Force members today joined an Air Force at war and will separate or retire before its conclusion.

These are the times our country needs our full participation as citizens, both on the battlefield and in the voting booth. We have a heightened interest in ensuring our democracy is guided and led by elected officials who will represent the people, adhere to the high standards on which our democracy was founded, and wisely balance the nation's resources between winning the war on terror to ensure our future and providing a high quality of life for our citizens today. Military members and those who live and work around our military installations have a particular responsibility to elect officials who will wisely employ our nation's military might.

Voting statistics are collected on every demographic. Results vary based on sex, age, race, socioeconomic class, etc. In no category do voting results approach 100 percent. In fact, rarely do even 50 percent of eligible voters make it to the polls, particularly for non-presidential elections. Voting is hard work. One must research the candidates to make a meaningful decision. A voter may check a candidate's record, analyze their technical background, investigate their religious ideology, or judge their moral character. It requires a deliberate decision to cast a meaningful vote. Much like giving to charity or volunteering for a worthy cause, a citizen of a democracy must commit time and energy to make their vote count. Time spent participating in our political process, time spent voting, is time well spent.

As citizens of this great democracy, we welcome our responsibility. We understand that the way of life we enjoy was secured by hard work and sacrifice of our forefathers, and we want to ensure we further the cause of democracy for our children and their children. We vote because we know that non-participation leaves the important decisions that shape our democracy in the hands of others who may not represent our best interests.