Ken Connor

On Tuesday, we will choose the next leader of our country. No election in recent memory has been this important, publicized, and controversial. The next President of the United States will face extremely difficult decisions as he grapples with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our volatile economy, and the upcoming entitlement crisis. It would be hard to overstate the importance of voting in this election.

Thankfully, all signs point toward a huge uptick in voting. Voter turnout in the primaries was at its highest since 1972, and people are voting early in record numbers. Hopefully this trend will continue, and we will have another high general election turnout like in 2004.

It is all too easy to take our right to vote for granted. Since our country's inception, Americans have had a direct say in the governance of our country. But this great privilege is an anomaly. For most of human history, countries have been governed by unelected kings and dictators. Historically, birthright and military power have been the primary factors in deciding who will rule.

Thankfully, our Founding Fathers worked hard to establish a representative form of government, so that rulers would be held accountable to the people. They recognized the inherent tendency of power to corrupt the human heart, so they set up a system wherein the passion of the masses would be tempered by the rule of a few representatives, and the power of those few would be controlled by the votes of the masses. The Founders understood the dual problems of tyranny and unbridled democracy.

Central to our American system of government is the belief that placing power in the hands of the people is the surest way to preserve liberty. Amidst difficulties in ratifying the federal Constitution, James Madison said, "The People were, in fact, the fountain of all power, and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over. They could alter constitutions as they pleased." Madison believed that the people were the source of legal authority; their consent determined law.

The Founders' belief in republican democracy turned out to be well-founded. More than two centuries later, we continue to live in the freest country in the world. But that freedom is only secured by our continued right to vote, and we have a duty to exercise that right, lest we allow the tyranny of the few to hold sway over the many. As John Quincy Adams said, "Where annual elections end, there slavery begins." Elections by the populace are the surest succor for freedom.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.