Fulfilling my civil duty

Many polling places offer a sticker for voters when they vote in person or turn in their absentee ballot. Photo credit: Tim Speier

Growing up as a child, it was instilled in me that it was my responsibility to help take care of the house: clean my room, pick up my toys, clean up after meals, etc. As I grew older, it was instilled in me that it was also my responsibility to help take care of the country. One of the ways we take care of our country is to vote, and to be an informed voter. 

The first election I was eligible to vote for was the primaries in the 2018 election. I registered to vote a few days after I turned 18, then started researching the candidates in each party. Then, I voted for our senators and representatives that November. Now, two years later, I am about to have the privilege to vote in my very first presidential election. 

Anna Panek, freshman, sharing a photo after her first official vote. Picture taken by Anna Panek.

When I say privilege, I don’t take that word lightly. There are millions of people in the world who don’t have the right to vote, there are millions of people even in the United States who don’t have the right to vote. As a white woman, I would have had my first opportunity to vote 100 years ago, 132 years after the United States had its first general election. However, even that didn’t allow all women to vote. To this day, large sections of our population don’t have the right to vote for various reasons. Privilege is a word that should not be taken lightly.

The difference between a privilege and a right is that a privilege is granted to certain people, whereas a right is guaranteed for all. Many people say that voting is our right in the United States, and there have been many laws and amendments passed guaranteeing that right for more people. However, because not everyone has the right to vote, I call it a privilege. Some examples of people who cannot vote for the president in the United States include: residents who are not citizens, people who have had a felony conviction (in most states), people with certain levels of mental incapability, as well as citizens who live in a territory. These are the people who are governed by the president and the government, but have no say in their representation.

The two party-system makes it easier for people to take the light road, pick a party, and stop the research there. However, as citizens who are eligible to vote, we also have the responsibility to be informed on the issues the candidates are running on. Before voting, people should carefully examine their values, do some soul searching, and then research not only what the candidates say they stand for, but what they have actually done (the policies they write, how they vote on policies, how they respond to current events, etc.). 

There is more to being an informed voter than simply Googling information. As a society, we need to be critical thinkers and analyze information before we absorb it as the truth. Not everything that is shared online is true and it is important to use trustworthy sites. For example, sites ending in .org and .gov traditionally have been perceived as more trustworthy than sites ending in .com. You can also do your research on news sites and check out the authors and look into their history and credentials. If a site won’t publish the author of who wrote the post, they are likely trying to hide something. There are many free news sites, such as npr.org. When looking at the values of the candidates, check out their official platform websites, rather than Facebook or blog posts about the candidates. To find out how candidates have voted in the past, you can check the official tally of the votes on recent bills. Fore example, the U.S. Senate posts the tallies, but all levels of government have to show the votes as it is public information. Be informed, but be well informed. 

With the nature of the world during this election, it is necessary to make a voting plan. I personally plan to vote in person, the morning of Nov. 3. I have confirmed the location of the nearest polling place and confirmed that I am registered to vote. 

Voting is a privilege that not everyone has. Many of us at SCSU will be voting in our first presidential election this year. We have a civic duty to be an informed voter.

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Anna Panek

Anna is a junior at St. Cloud State University and is double majoring in Math Education and Spanish Education, with a minor in Special Education. She is the Managing Editor for the University Chronicle this year. When she is not at campus attending class, working as a learning assistant or math tutor, or writing for the University Chronicle, she enjoys volunteering, reading, being overly competitive at board games, and telling horribly funny puns.

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