Friday, May 12, 2006

Vote to show you care — and because you can

By Elaine Shein

America is a great democracy … but do people appreciate that enough to take time to vote?

As election day nears for the primaries here in Oregon, and in other places in the country, election officials are sharing some of the signs of apathy that are out there.

Oregon has a mail-in ballot system. While next Tuesday the election results will be announced, by yesterday there were projections of perhaps only a 25 percent turnout of votes expected.

In some counties, there have been even less voters than that.

This is extremely disappointing, especially when one considers the amount of time, money and energy that candidates and their supporters have put into these campaigns.

There are countries in the world that admire America’s democratic system, and fight for the right to vote. People in those countries risk their lives to stand hours in line, sign and deposit their ballots. Sometimes international teams are invited to observe an election to ensure it was run properly. When election results are announced, these people celebrate or protest, but either way they show how passionate they are about their right to vote.

Why has America become so apathetic? At a time when immigration has fired up passion in people to defend their rights, the majority of American citizens haven’t found the passion to exercise their right to vote, nor seem to care who should lead them politically. This is shameful, but also scary. Do they not feel their votes matter, or that any candidate can do the job?

What can be done to encourage people to appreciate, respect and actively participate in democracy here?

Americans should encourage their neighbors, friends and relatives to vote but most of all take the time to vote themselves — and be thankful they can.

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