Your Vote Is Your Voice | Opinion

It's not just a cliché to open an Election Day column with the words, "Now it is all over but the shouting." In 2020, at least, it is likely an inaccurate observation. Both parties have spent weeks, if not months, preparing to challenge the outcomes in the key states that will determine who occupies the White House over the next four years. The battles they will wage in court, if it indeed comes to that, will make the post-2000 Election long count in Florida look like a trip to The People's Court.

Yet that's what an election is: a people's court. For all the surveys and comments and social media posts, what happens on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 is the ultimate judgment. Elections have often been extended in recent decades—a trend that needs to be curtailed, but that's for another column.

The opportunity is now available for a substantial number of ballots to come in for days after the polls have closed. This strikes at the nation's confidence in the security of the electoral process. Steps taken in states like Pennsylvania, under the authority of its highest court, have opened the door to that uncertainty.

That was a mistake. Every vote should be counted so long as it is legitimate. The Republicans are not wrong to argue the need to safeguard the process against fraud and manipulation. Our right to vote—our right to select those who will make decisions for us affecting every aspect of our lives—is among the most sacred that we have. People have fought and died for the extension of the franchise to those whom the Founders did not initially see fit to grant it.

Everyone has opinions. Some of us have the privilege of sharing those opinions with large and varied audiences because we're allowed to participate in the ongoing mass media experiment called "the news." Candidly, the performance of many of my colleagues in the industry over the last four years has been disgraceful. Rather than attempt to rise above the mudslinging engaged in by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, many of them—from leading institutions, such as CNN and The New York Times—have chosen to get right down there in the muck with him.

Early in-person voting in South Carolina
Early in-person voting in South Carolina Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

It seems clear that Trump has benefited from these exchanges far more than have those of us who believe we practice news in some fashion. Used car salesmen probably enjoy a higher level of trust among the public than we do these days—and we largely have ourselves to blame. Should there be a change in the nation's leadership once the votes are counted and certified, that's unlikely to improve.

America is an astonishing place. Our history can be encapsulated by the idea that we are a nation full of people who got mad about something, chose to do something about it and prevailed. From George Washington's outrage about the taxes levied against him by the British Crown to the ubiquitous peaceful protests today against police who abuse their power and authority, we are a country where people accomplish major social change (often, but not always, peacefully) because the rights secured for us under our Constitution give us the tools we need if we are willing to expend, as the poet said, "our blood, our toil, our tears and our sweat."

"We the People." Is there a sweeter, more majestic phrase than that in the English language? Perhaps. But it is unlikely that there's one that has had a bigger impact on the history of man on Earth as that phrase has. Our nation. Our country. Our government. Our sovereignty. We are a people responsible for, and in charge of, their own destiny. Rule by the majority, tempered by the protection of, and respect for, the opinions and actions of the minority. A sound system, one that protects us from tyranny—but only if we step up and take the opportunity to choose those who would hold power over us by voting.

Today, I will make my opinion count in the one way it truly does: I will go to my polling place and I will cast my ballot for president of the United States, United States senator and member of the U.S. House of Representatives. My choices may prevail, or they may not. It doesn't matter. My vote is my voice, just as your vote is yours.

Use it.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@GMAIL.com. Follow him on Twitter: @PeterRoff.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.