EDITORIAL: Why vote?

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The level of frustration of the voting public is higher than we have even felt in recent times (than we can remember). This is an opinion and not the result of any poll or statistical calculation. It is simply how we feel based on the general feedback that we are receiving on a daily basis. Many are stuck, asking themselves the question, “Why vote?”
The reason for the question is simple. A large segment of voters do not feel a connection with the politicians, their plans and their policies. The last 20 years have left quite a few people thinking, “six of one, half dozen of the other.”  They claim that whenever they vote for change, they get ‘exchange’ instead. They are frustrated that neither the system nor the politicians cater to their needs and their vision of the future. 
While the reason for the question is simple, the
answer to the question is
not. Certainly, we can employ the usual responses; “it is your civic duty” or “if you do not vote, you have no say” or the most generic and unsatisfying one of all, “voting matters”, but that does not really address the question nor give a good reason to vote.
The disappointing thing for us is that we have been pondering this question for a while and we still have no good answer to those that feel that their vote doesn’t matter. Sure, we have written about the “every vote counts” scenario and used Barbuda as an example, but that still does not satisfy the frustrated among us, and we know that. The more we thought about it, the more we realised that voting does matter, if for one reason only. It matters as a signal to the politicians that we care and we are watching.
Voting is just the first step in our democracy. When we evaluate the candidates before us, we should pick the one that best suits our vision for the future, however, the reality is that we generally choose the one that can do the most for us. We use the word “us” but what we are referring to is the selfish persons in our society, of which there are many. “What is in it for me?” is how many people decide where to make their “X”.  No thought for their neighbours or their country.  Just themselves. 
It is difficult to concede that is the current situation but at the same time, we must maintain a more optimistic view on life and demonstrate to the politicians that our votes do count. They must understand that if they do not do what we want, then they will be empty boxes next to their names on election day. 
There are many examples of why voting matters but we will use an extreme scenario to make our point. If people become so frustrated that they stay away from the polls then the political winners may not be representative of the will of the majority, of the people. Apathy creates a void where an active, minority voice could become representative of the majority simply because people stayed at home in frustration. In a way, it is similar to an uncontested election. You take whatever you get because there is no other person interested in public service. In that scenario, the default winner could be a total loon but he or she would be considered the representative voice of the community.
Our arguments probably have not convinced many of the value of voting but there must be some acknowledgement that there is a reason why people have given their lives for the right to vote. The power to have a say in who runs the government on your behalf is a powerful concept in the world of politics.  Few of us know what it is like to live under a dictator or totalitarian rule but we can imagine that it must be suffocating. Just the right and ability to disagree with a politician is a powerful demonstration of freedom and it is something that we take for granted. 
So, as you curse at the radio and suck your teeth at every political advertisement, think about whether you want to contribute to democracy and exercise your freedoms or whether you are just willing to accept who wins the political beauty contest the morning after. Because, if you are happy with accepting the latter, you could probably trade places with someone in a country with far less political freedoms and choices.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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