The most basic, fundamental, bedrock principle of our democracy (or republic if you prefer) is the power of the vote. Everything about how we say we work as a nation – and I acknowledge there is a larger conversation lurking behind that sentence – rests on the vote.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

It was the guiding star of those who drafted our Constitution. Alexander Hamilton said, “(V)oting at elections is one of the most important rights … and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.”

We hold this idea so dear it is a part of our everyday lives from early on, from what to watch on movie night to which book to read at story time. The issue at hand changes, but the underlying lesson is the same: Everyone gets a vote and the majority of votes wins.

The practice gets more nuanced when elected “offices,” such as student council or class president, come into play. Students might be encouraged to develop clear statements on their platform and why they deserve the vote from their peers. Posters and stickers start to appear. Glitter may well be involved.

Nevertheless, whatever the trappings may be, the core concept remains. Everyone gets a vote and the majority of votes wins.

The Founding Fathers looked on this process as more than just a way to decide between A or B, they saw the vote as the thing that would preserve a democratic government, the thing that would ensure our ability as a nation to survive. Witness this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “(S)hould things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights.”

Our government is built upon, and requires, the collective reasoning and decision-making power of the people.

I want to focus on a preschool example for a minute, because I think that, as with many things in life, the preschool set knows where it is at. There is a level of no-nonsense straight talk there that I really appreciate. They know what’s fair and what isn’t, and they have zero qualms calling out a cheat.

They know how to pitch an idea and should a vote not go their way, they might not like it but they’ll go along with it. Because a fair vote is a fair vote. Even if it is disappointing.

However, take that same situation, but make new rules where only some of the class has access to the ballot box or where some of the class has their right to vote revoked through complicated bureaucratic idiosyncrasies – yeah, see how that flies.

They will call that stuff out immediately. They will call it out because they know what we all know, but they are bold enough to declare without self monitoring: That’s not fair.

I am calling upon our elected officials – no, more importantly, I am calling upon all of us who are their bosses – to adopt the preschool mindset.

If you want to win an election, learn how to make your argument compelling. Convince us. If, however, the only way for you to win is to take away the voting rights of the people who disagree, we will call that cheating.

Let’s all be a little better than that.

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