UDHR Article 21 states the following:
- Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
- Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his/her country.
- The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Mortimer Adler, in his book Six Great Ideas, describes the significance of the right to vote in his discussion of the great idea of liberty: (pages 149-154)
The only liberties to which we can make a claim upon society are the freedom to do as we please within the limits imposed by justice and that variant of circumstantial freedom that is the political liberty enjoyed by enfranchised citizens of a republic…
We are under moral obligation to pursue happiness, which means trying to make good human lives for ourselves by seeking whatever, corresponding to our natural needs, is really good for us. We have a right to whatever we need to lead good human lives….
Unlike the organized societies of the social insects, which are entirely determined by the instincts of the species, human societies are voluntarily formed and conventionally instituted. They are natural societies only in the sense that man, being gregarious, needs to live in association with other human beings. They are at the same time conventional in the sense that the shape they take – the forms of government, the laws, the institutions, and other arrangements that constitute their organizations – are products of rational and free, not instinctive, determination…
A political community is a society that is thus constituted. To say that man is by nature a political as well as a social animal is to say that he is by nature inclined to live in political communities and to participate in political activity – to be a self-governing citizen in a republic…
In short, being political by nature means that man by nature needs political liberty – the freedom of an enfranchised citizen – in order to live humanly well. This is the basis of man’s entitlement, by natural right, to political liberty…
Deprived of political liberty, as slaves are or as are the subjects of a despot no matter how benevolent, human beings cannot fulfill all their natural propensities and lead fully human lives. They are deprived of a real good to which they are by nature entitled. The same is true of those who, living under constitutional governments or in republics, are nevertheless disenfranchised and thus deprived of political liberty.
Discussion Questions to Guide Deeper Reflection and Critical Thinking:
- Why is political liberty so important to every human being, as a member of their given society?
- What types of influences can one have on their society when they are enfranchised/have the right to vote and participate in their government?
- What can happen to people who do not have access to the right to vote and participate in their government?