Capitol Comment: Voting--An American Right and an Individual Responsibility

By U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison | Oct 30, 2008

In just a few short days, the historic 2008 Presidential campaign will reach its conclusion as Americans cast their ballots to help elect the next Commander-in-Chief.

This is one of the most consequential elections in a generation. Our nation is at a critical turning point on many issues that will directly impact every American citizen. Yet, voting is a right that too many in our nation take for granted.

One of the most important instruments of our democracy is the right to vote. In the early years of our republic, voting was restricted to a small, select group of people � predominantly, males who owned property � but over a period of many generations that right was extended across the barriers of race, sex, and class.

Following a brutal Civil War, African-American and other non-white males were granted the right to vote in 1870, with the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Fifty years later, after the tireless and courageous efforts of suffragists like Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, voting rights were also extended to all women.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment banned poll taxes in federal elections, thereby extending the vote to all Americans, regardless of property ownership. And in 1971, all citizens 18 or older were granted suffrage.

So many Americans in our nation's history did not have the opportunity to vote, and so many others fiercely struggled to ensure that no American adult today would be denied that right.

I would urge every Texan to consider the critical challenges we face in the 21st century and to look at voting as, not only a right, but also a responsibility.

When the next president of the United States takes office in January of 2009, he will immediately face the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression. The American people will look to the White House for leadership to bring stability to our credit markets and ensure economic stability for every family and business. The next president must lead the effort to overhaul our banking regulatory system so our country is never put in this precarious position again.

Therefore, citizens must educate themselves on each candidate's tax proposals and economic plans and cast their vote for the candidate who will keep their taxes low and help them balance their budgets.

Over the past several years, Americans saw an unprecedented spike in energy prices that has made it burdensome for many families to keep gasoline in their vehicles and heat their homes. This year, we will spend about $700 billion to import energy from nations across the globe, some of which are hostile to our interests. Even as energy prices fluctuate, the next Administration must make American energy independence an urgent national priority.

Though the presidential candidates are united in this goal, they have distinctly different ideas on how to achieve it. Prices at the gas pump and home heating costs affect every American family, and voters should learn how each candidate intends to raise the domestic supply of oil, invest in new, clean technologies, and lead our nation into an era of energy self-sufficiency.

One of the most solemn responsibilities of the president is to protect our homeland and keep every American safe from harm. Our next Commander-in-Chief will lead our Armed Forces and make critical decisions directing operations in the Global War on Terror, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Citizens must carefully consider which candidate will best safeguard America from foreign and domestic terrorism and military threats.

President Dwight Eisenhower said, "Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people."

In the days leading up to this historic election, I encourage every eligible voter to consider their priorities and values, to learn about the candidates, and to stay involved in the political process by casting their vote on Nov. 4.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas.

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