Why Every Vote Matters
Aida Neimarlija
Women Lawyers of Utah, President

One of the first things I was reminded of when I learned of this year’s Law Day topic is just how grateful I am to live in the United States where all citizens have the right to vote.  I, perhaps, think of this right more often than some.

I spent most of my childhood in a very different political system – communism.  There had been no free elections in Yugoslavia since 1939.  A dictator and his same political party made all decisions and suppressed those who questioned and challenged the party’s stance.  With no civil society and no democracy, the country could not adequately acknowledge, protect or develop the rights and ideas of its citizens.  The government answered to no one for its behavior.  As with many similar political systems in other countries, the citizens of Yugoslavia lost trust in the government and the country fell apart.

In the U.S., we are truly fortunate to have a system where citizens do have a voice.  It is important to reflect on the history and acknowledge the courage and perseverance of those who fought for our rights.  I recently had the privilege of meeting Reverend France Davis when he presented on the topic of the civil rights movement.  The path to equal voting rights was long and difficult, and learning from a first-hand participant in the movement about those who fought for voting rights was truly humbling. 

Though our system is not perfect – and arguably there is no perfect system – there is no question in my mind that equal voting rights have made a positive impact on our society.  Changes do not take place overnight.  However, since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many small successes have led to greater dialogue, progress, and diversity of views held by government officials.  Those who have traditionally been underrepresented or suffered discrimination have benefited immensely from these voting rights.