Let's Get Off The Backs Of Those Who Don't Vote

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
You hear it from nearly everyone you meet on Election Day: "Hi. Did you vote?"

Answer no and you're most likely in for an argument.

"Why not?"

"Don't you know it's your duty to vote?"

And my personal favorite: "If you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain about the outcome!"

Without revealing whether I voted or not, I can certainly think of reasons a person could choose not to vote.

  • None of the candidates appeal to you – and you reject the notion of voting for the lesser of two, three or four evils.
  • You support a candidate – but not enough to wait in line for hours to cast a ballot.
  • You believe that it's your right to vote – not your duty – and you can exercise that right or not, as you choose.

    On that last point: As Americans we have many rights. But just because we have the right to freely practice our religion, doesn't mean we have to. We have the right to free speech; that doesn't mean we've got to go out and give one.

    Even on the news, we're admonished by reporters and anchors to go out and vote. Is that really any of their business? Don't they risk influencing the outcome of the election by telling people to vote.

    As Americans, don't we have the right not to be chastised or even bullied about voting? It's really no one's business.

    Some of the people who vote boast about it by wearing small stickers on their lapels – proclaiming to the world: "I voted!"

    Well, good for them. It's their right. But good for those who don't vote. It's their right too. And frankly, it's no one else's business.

    And there's nothing in the Constitution that says if you don't vote, you forfeit your right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." That's in the First Amendment – and it applies equally to voters and non-voters.

    So let's ease up on those who don't vote. Let's stop berating them or questioning their patriotism.

    I know, I know. You want to know if I voted today.

    None of your business.

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      Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.