Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2. Be an educated voter.

On May 19, 1963, President John F. Kennedy told students at Vanderbilt University, “the educated citizen knows that … only an educated and informed people will be a free people – that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”  

Our right as citizens to vote was established with our Constitution in 1787, first as a right of white, landowning men, then developed and expanded to include everyone after they turn 18. Now more than ever we need to be vigilant to make sure that universal access remains not only the letter of the law but the truth in practice.

In most elections, a small percentage of eligible people vote. There are many reasons for that. I believe one of the most important is tied to what President Kennedy identified – education. Our lives are busy, but I encourage you to become an ‘educated citizen.’ On Tuesday we’ll mostly vote for statewide and local judges. Who our judges are matters, so it is important to learn their positions on issues, their reputations for ethics and truth, and their reputations for fairness and balance.

Tomorrow is the final day to cast a vote in this year’s election. For the past seven weeks, our fellow citizens have been voting, casting votes at voting centers or by mail. Early figures show that in this year, one year removed from a historic Presidential election, we are lagging. Of over 110,000 mail-in ballots requested by Philadelphia voters, 50,000 remain uncast. If you are one of those 50,000, get your ballot to a voting center or dropbox as soon as you can. Most sites will be open until 8 p.m. Tuesday, and the list of locations is here: Mail-In Voting Centers (phila.gov).

If you are like most folks, you are getting ready to vote in person. Again, educate yourself before you go into the polling place. You can find your polling place by going to the Pennsylvania Department of State site and typing in your address. The link for that is here: Polling Place Information (pa.gov). Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Once you are at the polling place, be sure to remember to thank the people – your neighbors – who do the work to make sure everyone has access to cast their ballot. 

There are people who say each election is ‘the most important ever.’  That may be a bit dramatic, but it is actually true, if we recognize that our society, our government, our way of life, requires us to do things every day to maintain it. In the case of voting, we only need to act twice a year to make sure that what is good in our lives remains, and that the things that need changing, get changed. Some people are falsely claiming that the problem with our democracy is that we have made it too accessible – too vulnerable to fraud. In truth, our most recent elections were accurate and fair and had more participation and less fraud than almost any others in our history. I am doing my part in Harrisburg to fight against those who make these false claims that undermine our democracy. I ask that you do your part by voting.

Entire populations were excluded in our past – non-landowners, women, and communities of color – and some people had to die to establish the right for future generations. We owe it to them, and to the generations to come, to perform a simple task two times a year – educate yourself and vote.