Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To Vote, or Not to Vote

We’re half-way through summer with the Democrat and Republican National Conventions mere weeks away in August. Another way to look at this is we are one hundred and three days before the presidential election (as of the printing of this article).

Some of you may be thinking, “Who cares?” Others are saying, “My vote doesn’t matter anyway.” Still others say, “I don’t like either candidate.” These are typical comments during an election year. Regardless of the attitude you have toward our election process, it is worth noting that voting is one of the great privileges we enjoy as Americans.

Now, I will grant you that this particular election year has been mercilessly long. Candidates began running for office shortly after the mid-term 2006 elections. We have been subjected to a seemingly endless presidential campaign. We have been reminded of what the issues are by the candidates and their lieutenants until we’ve become numbed by the monotony.

Allow me to address the attitudes above. The “Who Cares?” crowd should remember that by not caring, by not participating in the process of choosing our leaders, leaves the decision to others. Future generations yet born rely on you and me making reasoned decisions. We owe it to them to be on top of the issues and to make informed choices in the ballot box. Sloughing our civic responsibilities will not impress anyone – particularly the next generation. After all, they’re watching us right now to see what’s important to us. What message are you sending to them?

Then there’s the “My vote doesn’t matter anyway.” Au contraire, my friends. Please take note of the very close elections in recent history. In 1960, Senator Jack Kennedy narrowly defeated Vice-President Richard Nixon for the presidency. It has been said that Nixon, because of the slim margin of victory for Kennedy, could have demanded a recount. Kennedy had 49.7% of the popular vote to Nixon’s 49.6%. Kennedy clearly won the Electoral College vote, 303 to 219. In 2000, who of us will ever forget this presidential race where Vice-President Al Gore won the popular vote (48.38% to 47.87%), and Governor George Bush won the Electoral College vote (271 to 266)? Now that’s close! Remember: Your vote counts – every time!

Then we have the folks who say, “I don’t like either candidate.” Okay, fine. I understand that sentiment. But it isn’t simply whether you like the candidate, or agree with their position on the issues. Instead, you should vote for the person who is most closely in line with your views, more specifically your world view, and who will make decisions that will best benefit our nation. When entering the voting booth (or filling out your absentee ballot), it is also important to remember that there are countless federal, state, county, and city offices that are to be voted on. Then there are the various bills from the senate and the house to be voted on. There are votes for judgeships (depending on state laws), who might one day be appointed to a higher court by the then sitting president.

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons for voting for the presidency has to do with the Supreme Court of the United States. This august body of judges is hand selected by the president to serve on the U.S Supreme Court – for life! Because of the advanced age of these justices, usually two or three of the nine justices will either retire or die during an administration. The vetting process for new justices is intense. Vetting is subjecting somebody to a careful examination or scrutiny, especially when this involves determining suitability for something, such as, in this case, a judgeship on the U.S. Supreme Court. These judges have already made a reputation for themselves in their chosen field, so they are not young when they are selected. They then must meet the approval of the United States Congress. Once so honored, they will serve for life on the highest court in the land, interpreting law that will often have a direct effect on you and me.

As you might expect, a sitting president will likely choose a judge who bears a close resemblance to the philosophical/political position and leanings of the president. This, by deduction, means the decisions on interpreting the law in future cases will be judged with this mindset. With only nine members of the Supreme Court, a 5-4 majority will frequently determine what is to become law. The Court in 2006-2007 addressed seventy-two cases. Of that seventy-two, twenty-four were a 5-4 decision. Put another way, one-third of decisions made by the Supreme Court for that year were decided by one vote.

A case in point is the April 18, 2007 decision of 5-4 upholding the ban on partial birth abortion. This was originally passed by Congress in 2003. President Bush’s appointees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., played a critical role in upholding this ban. The lives of countless unborn babies were spared because of this narrow decision. President Bush selected justices who would honor the sanctity of life.

So, is it important for you to vote? You bet! It is a right that all Americans have. Never forget that the right to vote has been earned at a price – the blood of patriots. When you vote, you honor their sacrifice.

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