Sep 30, 2008
In 1971, the 26th Amendment was ratified, allowing U.S. citizens to vote at age 18. This opportunity was obtained through much effort and was viewed as both a privilege and a duty. Yet today, less than four decades later, young people seem to have forgotten the privilege that it is to have the right to vote.
Over the last decade, 18-24 year olds have consistently shown the lowest voter turn-out of any age group, with as little as 17% of eligible citizens between these ages exercising their right to vote. In the last presidential election, 48% of this age group was not even registered to vote, according to the U.S. census. Many young people simply do not care about politics. They believe that political decisions do not affect them, or they feel overwhelmed by the many different issues and the complex system – so they adopt an apathetic attitude towards politics as a whole.
While it is not necessary for every person to be utterly fascinated by American politics, it is important for us as Catholics to be involved in the political process, which directly affects our lives and the lives of others. The Catechism tells us, "It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom… Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community" (CCC 2239). This submission to authority and share in the responsibility to promote the common good create a moral obligation for us as Catholics to exercise our right to vote (CCC 2240). There is no place for political apathy in the life of a Catholic.
In order to vote properly, we must have an informed conscience. It is necessary to learn about the issues at stake in an election, as well as the candidates who are running and what they support. We must elect candidates who support Christian morality and be careful to avoid voting for those who support intrinsic moral evils. This can be especially difficult when politicians twist their words, change their public views, and make false claims that their actions do not support. Even those who claim to be Catholic do not always make decisions that reflect the Catholic faith. That is why it is essential for us to take the time to carefully inform ourselves so that we can make wise decisions in the voting booth.