To Vote Or Not To Vote

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To Vote or Not to Vote? Americans elect their senators and representatives. This direct link between the legislature and the people is a very important part of our democracy. Should Congress, then, reflect the will of the people? Or should they pay attention to their own points of view, even if they disagree with their constituents? Many considerations influence the voting patterns of members of Congress. For example, members of Congress often visit their home districts and states to keep in touch with their constituents’ views. They also read their mail, keep in touch with local and state political leaders, and meet with their constituents in Washington. Some pay more attention than others, but they all have to consider the views of the folks back home. Congress is also organized primarily along party lines, so party membership is an important determinant of a member’s vote. Each party develops its own versions of many important bills, and party leaders actively pressure members to vote according to party views. It is not surprising that representatives and senators vote along party lines about three-fourths of the time. Finally, what if a representative or senator seriously disagrees with the views of his or her constituents on a particular issue? How should he or she vote? Those who believe that personal views are most important argue that the people vote for candidates that they think have good judgment. Representatives should feel free to exercise their own personal views. After all, if the people don’t like it, they can always vote them out of office! This dilemma has often been debated about a representative government: are the elected officials expected to vote the way the majority of his or her constituents would desire, as amplified by the famous observer of American democracy Alexis de Tocqueville? Or, are elected officials expected to
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