Ethics and Voting: Why Do We Vote?

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By Gabriella Barry and Akira Collins-Hill

Americans have a moral obligation and ethical responsibility to vote. As a democracy, the American people have the power to choose their governing representatives through this sacred right. In exercising this right, voters have the opportunity to express their individual values in order to influence the direction of the country—and their local communities. As many people in our communities have been thinking a great deal about the ongoing election, we wanted to give members of our community the opportunity to explain why they choose to vote, and the values that their votes express. So we collected voices from interviews, polls, and our social media accounts, engaging with family and friends from diverse backgrounds, professors, and fellow Ethics and Society students and alumni.

“I vote because it’s the most precious privilege that many moral warriors have fought and died for. We owe them.”

“I vote because my ancestors before me weren’t afforded the luxury so it’s a privilege for me to vote for them.”

Some of the people we talked to pointed to particular issues that they think is important—such as human rights and climate change. But for many people, voting was an acknowledgment of their connection to a past in which they wouldn’t have been able to have their voice heard.

For much of our history, most people living in this country were not allowed to participate in our democracy. The 19th Amendment to the constitution, which guaranteed the voting rights of women, was ratified in 1920—nearly 150 years after the American Revolution. This right was only secured through the efforts of Women who fought for this right.

“I vote because of the stories of the struggle of getting the right to vote, my great grandfather tells me. I vote because I am a minority woman who wouldn’t have had that right if my ancestors hadn’t protested and organized.”

Less than sixty years ago, African-Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, and many more minority groups were not able to vote without the barriers of discrimination and discouragement. Discriminatory practices were used to keep the turnout rate of African American voters low until the Voting Rights Acts of 1965. This legislation was secured only after decades of struggle by African Americans.

As a result of these struggles, people who were once denied the right to vote now make up the majority of active voters. These people now have the right and equal opportunity to elect officials that represent their morals and beliefs. Many of the people we talked to saw that exercising the right to vote is a reminder that they count, a way of honoring the people who made it possible for them to be counted, and a way of carrying these battles for civil rights forward.

“I vote because it is my right and we can make a difference. I want to make a positive change. Women who came before me fought hard for the rights that I have today, I don’t want to let them down. Men should not be making decisions that are about me.”

While we have come a long way when it comes to securing the right to participate in the political process, we still have a long way to go. Voter suppression and numerous obstacles continues to inhibit minority participation. A number of people we talked to highlighted that there are still many voices that are not heard through the political process. Several people we talked to saw acknowledged their own privilege, and saw voting as a way to express their commitment to the common good—especially the interests of members of marginalized communities. They said that they vote for fellow citizens, especially those of less privilege

“I vote because as a privileged person, I feel obligated to protect marginalized groups, whose lives literally depend on the outcomes of our elections.”

“Voice and accountability are central to democracy. I want to use my power to amplify the voices of people who are locked out of the political process, and to make our representatives more accountable for their decisions.”

Connecting us to the past, and the future, voting provides citizens power to keep our democracy, affect positive changes, and to shape our community’s values. To vote is to use your voice, to make a change, and to essentially fight for what you believe in.

Let your voice be heard on November 3rd. Our voices can make a difference and change for our country depends on you.

The Voices of our Democracy

Here are some other voices that we heard:

“I vote to set an example for my children and because I can. Amen.”

“I vote because I aspire to help curate change in our communities.”

“I vote because it is hypocritical to speak on change but not be a part of it when you have the ability to.”

“I vote because my voice needs to be heard as an American citizen.”

“I vote because it is the most basic level of action I can do that would allow change to occur within my community.”

“Voting is my civic duty. My parents came to this country so I could do this.”

“For change.”

“I vote because women protested and fought for us, and I’m going to make them proud.”

“I vote to make sure the US heads in the right direction.”

“I vote sometimes out of passion for issues, more often out of passion for those who are harmed by whoever I am voting against.”

“I vote for our future, climate change, marginalized voices, and civic duty.”

“I voted in this election because human rights were at risk.”

Facts About Voting:

Official ballot drop boxes are secure and reliable. You can confirm official locations with your local elections office.

You have rights when you go to vote at the polls.

Some election results may not be available for days or weeks. This means things are happening as expected.

Both voting in person and voting by mail have a long history of trustworthiness in the U.S. Voter fraud is extremely rare across voting methods.

You have options to vote safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Election Day is November 3, though early voting  and voting by mail are available in many places.

You should check your voter registration even if you voted before.

Voting works the same way for all political parties.

Bipartisan Policy Center

Healthy Voting Tips:

Voting by mail is a healthy option because it helps you maintain physical distance and helps reduce crowding at in-person centers.

If you go out to vote – whether to drop off a ballot or vote in person, follow these common sense precautions:

  • Wear a mask or face-covering
  • Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet to protect yourself, election workers, and other voters
  • Before and after voting wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

If you are sick or think you have been exposed to the Coronavirus, seek medical care. If you have an absentee ballot, contact your local election office for guidance about voting options.

Healthy Voting


Where to Vote
Find Early Voting Locations
Register to Vote

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