2017

Voting is a civic duty

I remember the ballot card my mother gave me to play with when a boy after she had voted at Bellwood School. It was on 3”x6” white stock with red and blue print, listing the Democratic candidates she was encouraged to vote for.

There was an arm on the machine one pulled to vote a straight ticket. That has gone away, but not straight-ticket voting. For some, voting is dogmatic in that they cast party-line ballots. That might seem rigid, but at least those dyed-in-wool voters that vote in every election are fulfilling their highest civic duty: Voting in every election.

I was eight when I read my first big political news in the Pittsburgh Press. Governor David Lawrence (D-PA) and Senator Hugh Scott (R-PA) were reelected. Scott’s claim to fame came during the Watergate crisis in 1974 when he accompanied Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) to inform President Richard Nixon he was toast. The good old days when the country teetered on collapse but didn’t because of leaders who put country ahead of party. The days when acting with moral courage and patriotic duty were precepts of, not apostasy to the Republican creed.

What changed?

We haven’t moved the needle much in terms of human development in 70,000 years since the halcyon days on the African savannah. We’re still the avaricious, aggressive, fearful lot that went forth to “Be fruitful, multiply, replenish and subdue the earth, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and every living thing that moveth upon the earth,” as God commanded. One thinks, though, to shoulder such an onerous task he would’ve created a more rational, less fearful creature. Instead, here we are.

We’ve obviously multiplied and subdued the earth, sort of. If “dominion over” was meant to kill and cause species extinction, we’ve certainly excelled at that. But then, maybe that’s why he gave us brains and democracy, so we could figure it out…together. They—brains and democracy—share a commonality: Use them or lose them.

Some good news came out of the election here in Clear Creek. The.65 sales tax increase passed with flying colors. Chalk one up for government being a force for good. Also, for the first time in memory, there was a contested School Board election. Congratulations to Jenn Cassell on her election.

But there was a down side: Of the 7,929 registered voters, only 2,201 voted. That’s 27.76 percent. Just over a quarter. Not even a third. That means 5,728 Clear Creekers couldn’t be bothered. Couldn’t be bothered to exercise their most fundamental civic right, to fulfill their moral obligation to their county: To take time during a three-week span to fill out and mail or drop off a ballot. So much for figuring it out together.

We attach integrity to paying bills, being honest in financial dealings and paying taxes, and waiting one’s turn. But we don’t do the same for carrying out the most vital civic responsibility Americans have: To vote. Seriously?

How, then, do we encourage citizens to fulfill their highest civic duty?

Australia has had compulsory voting since 1924. Its participation rate is over 80 percent. So why not in America? If we can constitutionally mandate Americans to carry health insurance, why can’t we obligate them to vote?

What about social pressure? By law, county treasurers annually post public notices listing properties with tax liens. Here, it’s in the Courant. The intent is to make potential buyers and investors aware certain properties might be available, not to shame property owners. Still, a stigma is borne by those not paying their taxes, regardless of reasons, unless one is Douglas Bruce the godfather of the Bruce Amendment, aka TABOR

 

How one votes is confidential. It’s a hallmark of a free electorate. But who votes is public record.

One thought is to list in the Courant names of citizens who fail to vote. But that’s a bit extreme. Shaming is rarely a good strategy, Like the Puritans putting offenders in stocks. Instead, be positive: List those that voted as models of good citizenry. It would send a message, and given it’s a far shorter list, it would save paper and ink.

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