Here is an audacious idea. What if people actually voted?
When the “founding fathers” first wrote the constitution, only white men could vote. Since that time, extraordinary citizens have given up life and liberty to expand voting rights to all citizens so that the United States could try to become a government of the people. I recognize this is theoretical. Some people encounter huge barriers that mean they de facto do not have the right to vote, we as a society must improve our record on that problem.
No democracy is perfect, but it is certainly made less perfect if people who can engage choose not to. According to the census, in the highly contested 2000 presidential election, national voter turnout was only 60% of the potential voters (those citizens over 18 years of age)!!! According to the Maryland State Board of Elections—in Baltimore City—70% of those eligible voted during the 2004 presidential election but only 47% came out in 2006 for the gubernatorial election. Local politicians make decisions that affect every aspect of your life—what your health care benefits will look like, whether you will have slot machines, how many and what kind of community services are available and much more. Should we let them make these decisions without trying to influence the process? I say no.
There is a saying that if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. People who are eligible to vote, but stay home are part of the problem. If you go anywhere in Baltimore you will find someone who will complain about the city’s problems—lack of development, too much development, the HIV/AIDS rate, the crime, the public schools and the list goes on. However, these are the same people who often do not hold local, state, and federal politicians accountable because they choose not to vote. Many of society’s issues are made worse by public policies that do more harm than help—for instance trying to arrest our way out of the consequences of drug addiction.
Citizens complain that elections are all about money, the primaries are rigged, they have no real voice and use these as excuses to not become a part of the process, but those are simply excuses. You will never have a voice unless you choose to use it.
What would it take to make sure people vote?
• Easy registration—people should be able to register online, when they get a driver’s license, a library card, and groceries—anywhere that people congregate there should be voter registration materials. There should be locations for people who need language and reading help
• Easy access to the polls—people should be able to vote on voting day. People work all day and when they are not at work they have to take care of other responsibilities including children. By the time they are done all of the polls are closed. What if offices gave workers time off during election day to ensure they have time to vote?
Many government offices give employees the day off for national elections, but not local ones. But, what if every Election Day—local and national—meant workers had time off to vote? It is time for employers to encourage employees that are eligible to become part of the nation’s future.
When you and your friends vote, write letter and otherwise contact your politicians, you become part of a constituency—a constituency to which they have to respond.