Know Your Rights – Advice for the Apathetic

9 12 2009

“The right of voting for representation is the primary right by which other rights are protected.”

— Thomas Paine

There was an election in Massachusetts yesterday.

Not a big deal, just a primary showdown to discover who would be the replacement for Ted Kennedy in the Senate, a position he held with distinction for over 40 years.

Four democrat candidates, two republicans.

Not exactly the longest list of choices for the electorate to choose from. Possibly the work of seconds to mark the ballot paper and ensure that your vote counted.

Just another piece of the democratic process of which we in the West are so proud. So proud that we try and export this democracy and the fairness of elections to other countries.

We get quite annoyed when this simple act of choosing the right person for the job becomes corrupted. We impose sanctions, make comments about the sanctity of the ballot box and make idle threats about withdrawing support.

We remind those who haven’t been lucky enough to enjoy the freedom of choice for very long just how fortunate they are to be given this opportunity. People have died so that these freedoms could be implemented.

In Massachusetts yesterday, the electorate had choices.

Democrats could choose between  Coakley/Capuano/Khazei /Pagliuca. Republicans had it slightly easier with  Brown/Robinson.

Voting is not compulsory, the individual has every right to decide whether or not to cast their vote.

So that was the third choice……….not bother at all.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin projected that 600,000 voters cast their votes in the Bay State. Out of 4.1 million that were eligible.

In Boston, 63,500 out of 358,105 registered voters took the time to make their mark.

About 18%.

More people have seen New Moon since it opened on 25th November.

I just assumed that here in Boston, the birthplace of liberal democracy in the US, that the electorate would be keen to ensure that the legacy of Kennedy should be carried by the most appropriate representative. That they would care who takes Ted’s seat in the US Senate.

I was obviously wrong.

OK, it was only a Primary and those that did bother to brave the cold did manage to ensure that the special election in January will pit Attorney General Martha Coakley (Democrat) against state senator Scott Brown (Republican).

But at least those who couldn’t find the time had good reasons for not voting.

According to The Boston Globe, who took a sample of registered voters in the street, some of these were as follows :

  • I Forgot
  • I haven’t had time to educate myself, maybe I should be more interested as I work in healthcare.
  • I was busy
  • I’m registered to vote here but I’m from Texas
  • I don’t have a television
  • I don’t want to make the wrong choice.
  • I don’t know who is running.

I arrived in the USA on 22nd July, 2009. Ted Kennedy died on 25th August, 2009.

On 24th September, 2009, I was walking through Boston Common and ran into various enthusiastic people who wanted me to ask them about Alan Khazei (not to be confused with the winner of the Afghan election, whose opponent decided not to bother).

I knew who was running, although I do have the advantage of having a television.

However I am from England. I am a Resident Alien, not a citizen.

I can’t vote in the USA.

Winston Churchill said that “no part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than fighting an election.”

I learnt today don’t realise the rights that you have until you no longer have them.

Perhaps those who complain about elected officials should remember that. If you don’t vote, then don’t complain that they aren’t representing you.

They’re not. They are representing those who were interested enough to make a mark on a piece of paper.

Don’t you just love democracy.




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