Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday's Words for November 3, 2010

Yesterday was the first Tuesday in November, and although I am indeed a Canadian, I’m very aware that for all of my friends and neighbors to the south, it was Election Day.

Today, the morning after, there will be discussions and dissections; the pundits and talking heads will have their opinions and the spin doctors will weave their magic. And then, the next round of campaigns will get underway.

Of course, I will not comment on any of that. But the occasion yesterday does bring forward a topic I hope you will allow me to discuss, and that is the very precious, very special and incredible privilege-slash-responsibility available to be indulged in yesterday: the opportunity to vote, itself.

Did you vote?

Are you aware that most of the world’s population doesn’t have access to the free elections we here in our two countries take for granted? Most of the world’s population is ruled by tyrants, in one guise or another. If they have “elections” they are mock-ups, with candidates that are appointed, with outcomes that are pre-determined.

Now, I’m familiar with the argument. Someone is going to tell me that we live in free, democratic nations, which means we are free to vote or not to vote, as we each individually see fit. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that.

That argument reminds me of my kids. They’d get attitude, and say something like ‘it’s a free country and I can do what I want’. I’m sure your kids have at one point or other said the same thing, more or less, to you, too. And what was your response? “Yes, this is a free country, and you can do what you want within certain limits.”

One of those limits in my opinion is that you must vote. It is not just a privilege, it is a responsibility!

We had our municipal elections here on October 25th, and the news headlines were all in praise of the fact that we got a higher than average voter turnout. What was this magnificent number, worthy of acclaim? Forty percent.

Forty percent!

I had a look at the voter turnout figures for the past several US elections. It seems to run higher during years when you have presidential elections, in the fifty percent range. In 2008, you had a 56.8 percent turnout – the highest in some time. Since that figure does indeed represent more than half of your eligible voters, that is some consolation. But in the previous mid-term election in 2006 the turnout was 37.1 per cent, and it runs in the thirties for most of the last several mid-terms. That trend continues as early estimates I’ve seen pegs voter turnout yesterday at around thirty-five to forty percent.

Look at that figure in another way.

Imagine that you have been sequestered in a place with nine other people. What happens next, every circumstance of your existence from that point forward will be decided by just 4 of the ten of you, and if you do not vote in your election yesterday, then you are not one of those four.

Personally, I like Australia’s system. They have compulsory voting there. If you qualify to vote, and don’t, then you are fined, and that fine is hefty. Australia enjoys a 95 per cent voter turnout. I’ve heard some opponents of this system claim that Australians aren’t free because they are forced to vote.

To this I say piffle.

One of the best ways, above and beyond fighting a war, that free people can guard their freedom is to be vigilant and vote in every single election.
I honestly believe it really is a case of use it or lose it.

Song of the Sirens 3: The Beauty
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