Okay, so I informed myself on the issues, I got to know the candidates and their positions/record. I put up signs, passed out fliers, made phone calls and spent hours talking to my neighbors; I put voting reminders in the ward Relief Society bulletin and sent out reminder emails all the while feeling like I somehow wasn ?t doing enough.
And this just for the primary election.
I even wore my I voted ? sticker around all day to jog the memories of everyone with whom I happened to come in contact. (I know this last technique was effective in at least a couple of instances as I overheard comments like, Oh, yeah, I haven ?t voted yet, ? or Dude, have you voted? I think that ?s today. ?) Even though I had guilt that I wasn ?t doing more, in my heart of hearts I thought I was making a difference, however small. You know, the throwing one starfish back into the ocean kind of thing.
But the day after the election I had that let down kind of feeling like the one you get the day after Christmas when you wanted a Baby Alive doll that eats real food and instead you got the doll that just drinks and wets. In my voting precinct, only 187 out of the 905 people registered to vote bothered to show up. And in the other precinct I worked, only 191 out of 858 people exercised their duty of citizenship. About one out of five twenty percent. Granted, it was the Republican primary and you had to be a registered Republican to vote for candidates. But my city also had a bond election, on which everyone could vote. Approval of a bond, of course, is approval of a tax increase for you and all of your neighbors. The bond passed at sixty-five percent. So, sixty-five percent of twenty percent of my neighbors elected to raise my taxes. Let ?s see, doing the math, that would be ?13% of those registered to vote increased taxes for 100% of residents.
Twenty percent turnout, I am told, is actually relatively good. But why? If only one out of five children passed the third grade, wouldn ?t outraged parents be demanding explanations, and wouldn ?t the educational community be in upheaval, falling all over itself to propose new spending programs to rectify the dire situation?
Why do we fail to get exercised over the failure of four out of every five people in our community to fulfill their fundamental responsibility of citizenship? Particularly when, as members of the Church, [w]e believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them ? ? D&C 134:1
It is a lot of work to wade through all the info that candidates, cities, special interest groups, etc., put out. And even after all the wading, sometimes it ?s hard to know what, if any, of the info you can trust. Perhaps unwilling to risk making a wrong ? voting decision and unsure of who really is the best ? candidate or which side of the issue is correct, ? we avoid making any decision at all, and don ?t vote. Is that it? That ?s one of my theories. And a thought that goes along with it is this: Do I really want someone voting simply for the sake of saying I voted, ? if that person has not critically examined the issues/candidates and formed an opinion based on something other than the feel good ? spin so many candidates spew out?
Another theory I have is that we think it really won ?t make a difference anyway, because politicians are going to go on being politicians, and our one vote won ?t change anything. But even if true is that an acceptable excuse? Here ?s a loose analogy. I know (well, make that have faith) that the kingdom of God is going to roll forth and fill the earth, and that that outcome is not dependent upon my individual actions and prayers. In other words, it ?s going to happen regardless of what I do. Thus, the issue is not whether I can make something happen or not happen; rather, the issue is who will I become through the process and where will I stand in the end. Similarly, obtaining an understanding of the politics around us and casting an informed vote may not necessarily lead to our desired outcome, but that may not be the really big issue. Instead, the really big issue may be (1) who we become through the process influential voices in our communities speaking up for integrity and moral principles and (2) where we stand in the end we will be held accountable if we just go with the flow and fail to take a stand. Although, unlike the rolling forth of the kingdom of God, I do believe the course of politics can be changed.