John’s First Law of Elections: Anyone who seeks our votes is a politician.
John’s Second Law of Elections: Old Folks, generally, vote.
And its corollary: Young Folks, generally, do not.
On television news, we often are shown crowds of citizens in other lands with ink on their fingers to show they voted, many for the first time in their lives. Here, we figure we’ve done well if 20 percent of eligible voters show up to choose who will guide our local governments.
There are those of us who believe our vote does not count. We find other things to do, and prove ourselves absolutely correct; our uncast votes do not count. There are candidates who count on that.
It doesn’t take many of those uncounted votes to affect an election: in 1992, a state representative in my home county, who had held his seat 14 years, lost to a challenger by only 13 votes.
In another state in which I lived for a time, a candidate for state representative lost his election by, coincidentally, the number of votes that were not cast by those who stayed at his home to set up the victory party.
In 2008, the presidential election went to Barack Obama for several reasons: widespread distrust of John McCain as “the old guy,” some dissatisfaction with his choice of running mate, and a lot of young, independent voters eager to cast a vote against racism and against what many saw as unjustified wars.
Then, having elected their man, they went back to business as usual. Two years later, a significantly smaller number of voters, having seen that, sure enough, Obama could not do alone what he said he could not do alone, elected a “change in direction.”
A township supervisor running for county commissioner told a group of college students recently that the monthly supervisor meetings in his municipality consistently are attended by four residents – three of whom are the supervisors.
There are plenty of discussions taking place – in my township a candidate decries incumbents whose medical insurance is covered by taxpayers. Some home owners complain about rising real estate taxes; others bemoan an anticipated decrease in home values if an industrial egg factory is built nearby.
I’ve lived in several states during the period I have, with varying agreement among folks who have known me, called adulthood. One consistency has been about 75 percent of our local taxes go to our schools. Every four years, a relatively small number of voters elect school board members who promise to lower or limit our taxes and make sure all our kids go to college. Having elected the new board, the electors then stay away from meetings in droves, and wonder why nothing much changes.
A young potential voter asked last week what to do about our government when the media lies to us all the time. I submit we know the media lies because the station we watch or the newspaper we read tells us the media lies. Many politicians say the same thing – about their competition.
Much of our dissatisfaction with our lawmakers is cause by candidates who, for decades, have told us “government is not the solution; government is the problem.” Then they beg us to vote for them to become part of government.
Collectively, we do through government what we cannot do on our own. Those who we elect – or allow to be elected – do things in our name.
Young non-voters, busy raising families, earning a living or worrying because they have no job, will live a lot longer than we Old Folks with the decisions we will help make.
We hear talk from time to time about how voting is a privilege, or a responsibility, or a right. It is all three.
Today is Election Day. It’s the day the future begins.
Photo by United Nations Photo
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