April 03, 2020 Judicial Division

Director's Column

STANDING ON BROAD SHOULDERS

By Tori J. Wible, Chicago, IL

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Nearly 100 years after the suffragist movement began, the Amendment was ratified. Numerous papers, books, and dissertations have addressed the reasons why it took our country so long to acknowledge that women are capable of voting. If you’re interested in learning more, I’m sure Google will find plenty of sources for you.

Women vote in higher numbers than men. In every election since 1980, the proportion of eligible women who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible men who voted.[1] In the 2016, that was true for age categories under 65. For ages 65 and up, the men voted in higher percentages.  The most disturbing statistic is in the younger voters, fewer than half of the eligible voters of either gender voted in the last presidential election. I’ve heard from younger people that if a certain candidate doesn’t win the nomination, they won’t vote. As Thomas Jefferson said, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” This is particularly concerning considering the comments above. Our youth are our future, if they don’t care or aren’t willing to participate, what is the future of our democracy?

The right to vote is something that the disenfranchised fight for in the United States and around the globe. The question is why don’t those with the vote use it? It’s not a protest, no one wins if you don’t vote. I lived in Minnesota when a professional wrestler won the governor’s election. His opponents were the state attorney general and the mayor of St. Paul. I heard from many people that they had voted for the wrestler as a ‘joke’ thinking he would never be elected.  Why would I rely on “them” to do the right thing with their vote, if I’m not willing to treat mine as valuable and important?

To combat citizen apathy, voting has been made mandatory in 22 countries, such as Australia, where failing to exercise your franchise will get you fined. In 2014, The New York Times reported that more than 85 percent of the voters in Australia, Belgium and Bolivia turned out to vote. All three countries are among the roughly two dozen that make voting compulsory.

I’m not ready for mandatory voting, using the word ‘mandatory’ seems to make intelligent people contrary for no good reason. Think of seatbelts, helmets, taxes, and health insurance!  But voting is your right, your civic duty, one of the few things your country asks of you.

“Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” – Susan B. Anthony

I encourage you to visit the ABA’s webpage on the 19th Amendment Centennial of Women's Right to Vote and check out the Calendar of Events for related programming being held across the country. In addition, the 2020 Law Day topic is “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100.” Judicial Division Chair-Elect, Judge Michelle Childs, is planning a day-long celebration in October.

Tori Jo Wible

Tori Jo Wible

ABA Judicial Division Director