Playing your role — exercising your rights — in a democracy can take on a lot of different looks.
Sometimes, it looks like serving your country, sometimes it looks like marching for a cause you believe in, sometimes it even looks like writing a letter to the editor or posting a comment online.
But the most basic role every citizen can play in democracy is casting his or her vote. Today is the day to do that, if you haven’t already.
Only a little more than half the voting-age population in the United States — 56 percent — cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. In midterm years, like this one, the turnout rate is generally lower — usually about one-third of voters.
That’s a much smaller percentage than the turnout in most other large, developed democracies around the globe. Consider Belgium, where more than 87 percent of people vote.
Whether it is the tone of acrimony or voter apathy or some other explanation, Americans have a disappointingly low proportion of people actively playing their most basic, perhaps even minimal, role in continuing our democracy.
But democracy depends on the legitimacy of elections. That means that instead of complaining, or demonizing, we vote, and participate in the process beyond voting.
It also means that, once the election is over, we accept the results. Democracy depends on the legitimacy of elections. And the legitimacy of elections depends on faith — faith that voters are intelligent and usually get it right and that no one party or approach can prevail in every election. We need faith in majority rule, in minority rights, and in the power of our constitutional checks and balances to protect us all.
Today, remember the military service members, the suffragettes, or the civil rights protesters who all fought to protect your right to vote. Stand, speak, and vote for what you believe.
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