The Foundational Importance of Voting: A Response to Professor Flanders

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Voting is the foundational concept for our entire democratic structure. We think of voting as a fundamental-the most fundamental-right in our democracy. When a group of citizens collectively elects its representatives, it affirms the notion that we govern ourselves by free choice. An individual's right to vote ties that person to our social order, even if that person chooses not to exercise that right. Voting represents the beginning; everything else in our democracy follows the right to vote. Participation is more than just a value. It is a foundational virtue of our democracy.

Professor Chad Flanders, in a thought-provoking contribution to this symposium issue, focuses on a narrower view of voting, minimizing its inherent virtue as an individual right and maximizing the ideal of equality to resolve election disputes.

This response proceeds in two parts. Part I examines the theoretical underpinning of the right to vote as inherent in citizens in our democracy. This flows from the notion that voting is a foundational concept for our entire democratic regime and, indeed, the most fundamental right individuals enjoy. To be clear, Professor Flanders acknowledges the foundational importance of voting several times, but by emphasizing equality within the "voting wars" I believe he passes over too quickly the foundational concepts embedded within the right to vote. Both developing and long-standing democracies have embraced the individual right to vote as a first principle to their democratic structures and constitutional order; the United States should be no different. Although the equality principle is certainly significant as one component of protection, it does not tell the whole story. Participation is important because it provides the bedrock foundation for everything that follows in a democracy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)81-100
JournalOklahoma law review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


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