Voting is a fundamental right, not a mere privilege

As printed in Letters to the Editor in the Laurel Gazette, Dec 14, 2004

Thanks for the excellently researched Dec. 2 article, "Voting machine opponents report notes election troubles."

In that article, a local election judge was quoted saying, "Voting is a privilege, not a right."

Voting is most certainly not a mere "privilege" -- it is the most fundamental right of each citizen in a democracy.

In the Maryland State Constitution, the Declaration of Rights, Article 7 states: "That the right of the people to participate in the legislature is the best security of liberty and the foundation of all free government; for this purpose, elections ought to be free and frequent; and every citizen having the qualifications prescribed by the constitution, ought to have the right of suffrage."

Those "prescriptions" are given in Maryland State Constitution Article 1 Elective Franchise, which states: "Every citizen of the United States, of the age of 18 years or upwards, who is a resident of the state as of the time for the closing of registration next preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote in the ward or election district in which he resides at all elections to be held in this state."

The constitution goes on to enumerate procedures for orderly registration to enable "the right of every person, thus registered, to vote."

The word "privilege" does not appear anywhere in the Maryland State Constitution relating to the voting franchise.

Any statement or action, intentional or inadvertent, which might downgrade our precious right to vote to a mere privilege must be resisted with every fiber of our being.

In such an alternate universe where voting would not be every citizen's right, who would decide who is privileged enough to vote?

The purpose of voter registration is to ensure free and fair elections in which all citizens exercise their fundamental right to vote.

When procedures for registration and voting are misconstrued by those in power as privilege-granting exercises, they serve only to prevent all citizens from voting.

Garold Stone, Laurel