It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.
~ Tom Stoppard
I was eighteen when I was able to vote in my first national election. It was 1980 and my brain was swimming with a first semester in college and my first time living away from my family. Selective Service had been reinstated and I registered at the same time that I registered to vote. After years of complaining about not having a say in our national politics I finally felt I would be able to make my voice heard. I was young and fired up. I was also politically cynical and understood nothing about the political process. But I voted, because it was not only my right as a citizen, I felt it was my duty.
Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.
~ George Jean Nathan
I had a government teacher in high school who had worked for Voice of America during World War II. He had worked under a number of administrations before retiring from government service to become a teacher. His love of democracy was so great, it was infectious. Once he said “Who would willingly throw away their right to vote, in this or any country, for the people who would represent them?” Even when I wasn’t enthusiastic about my choices, or confused about ballot measures, I always voted. Except the one time when I didn’t.
When you blame others you give up your power to change.
~ Douglas Noel Adams
I don’t remember why, but once I failed to vote. It was an off-cycle local election, not a national one, but it came and went and for whatever reason I let it slip by. I remember the day after reading about the results in the newspaper, following which candidates won (or didn’t) and which ballot measures passed (or didn’t) and was struck with an awkward horror. I wanted to complain about some of the results but didn’t feel I’d earned the right because I hadn’t participated. In an election where nearly 60% of the state’s population hadn’t turned out I became a statistic, a group labeled politically apathetic. I hadn’t found the time to make the effort and suddenly realized that I had no right whatsoever to complain about the results. I had surrendered my rights, and I felt it as acutely as if they had been taken from me by force. I vowed never to let that happen again.
What you don’t do can be a destructive force.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I have two girls who are more politically aware at the ages of 10 and 12 than I was even in my mid 20s. They understand a variety of complex issues, and better, they can reason and argue their own political points of view. They cannot wait to vote and are looking forward to the opportunity. For the first time in a national election they are aware that, whoever wins, the outcome is going to have an effect on their lives and futures. The first chance they will get to vote in a national election is eight years from now. It seems so short to me, it feels like forever to them. They understand what it means to participate in a democracy and are eager to do so. I’m looking forward to asking them how it feels the first time they get to vote.
Democracy belongs to those who exercise it.
~ Bill Moyers
These are my views, but there are many more over at Blog The Vote. Check them out and add to the chorus. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise your franchise rights!