Ho-hum elections here, not so much elsewhere in the world
In Kenya, the East African nation known for its lucrative tourist industry and for producing some of the world’s best long-distance runners, rioting over the slim margin of victory achieved by President Mwai Kibaki in the election held last month has claimed the lives of more than 300 people according to news reports. There seems to be no end in sight to the Kenyan unrest concerning the election as there are reports of election officials in the nation attesting not even they know who has claimed victory in the vote.
In Pakistan, the country had hoped 2007 would have been known as the "Year of Tourism" as claimed by its government, but it is instead finding itself fraught with election troubles. Benazir Bhutto, the popular leader of Pakistan’s opposition party, was killed last week and efforts to restore order there fail as rioters burn polling places to the ground in the aftermath of Bhutto’s death.
In these two nations where ballot tampering is suspected in addition to widespread violence, the respective people want nothing more than democracy. Free and fair elections are sought in these two nations so that each voter in Kenya and Pakistan can cast a vote for the candidate of his or her choice.
If only those of us here in the U.S. were half as passionate as the people found in these two countries, perhaps turnout here would showcase Americans as a democracy-loving people.
In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, there were more than 202 million eligible voters in the country. Of that number, there were slightly more than 142 million registered voters in 2004, of which a bit more than 121 million voters had their say in the election.
So, there were about 20 million registered voters who either chose not to or neglected to make it out to the polls that day, and about 60 million voting-eligible Americans who did not even bother to register to vote for the 2004 election.
The goal here is not to point out the obvious voter apathy, but to show that there are those who do not care about who leads this country and furthermore want nothing to do with the voting process.
The day election results are announced in the U.S., polling places still stand, the streets are flooded with nothing more than commuters trying to get to work and the newly elected pat themselves on the back. No violence, no outcry – well, Al Gore’s contesting of the 2000 election results notwithstanding – and for the most part protests consist of a glum, "We’ll try again in four years."
Iowans have been fed up with the inundation of political ads and solicitation for their votes in Thursday’s caucus in their state. Daily calls, mailings and television commercials have led many in Iowa to stop answering the phone and turn off the TV.
The Kenyan and Pakistani people would love for their votes to be courted in such a fashion.
We here in this country might be tired with the political process, but turning a blind eye to it is not the way to go. Voting is just one of the many liberties afforded that Americans take for granted. Kenyans and Pakistanis may one day show the same lack of enthusiasm for voting as we do, but it has taken our nation some 232 years to go from declaring all citizens have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to thinking we have just as much right to ignore voting for our leaders.
While other democracies in the world falter at their polls, it is up to those of us in this, the greatest democratic nation on the planet, to be the epitome of a freedom-loving nation. Sure you can do so by choosing not to vote, but such an act is a slap in the face to those abroad who dream of the day they can cast their vote in an election.
Now that voting has been handed to us on a silver platter, we seem bent on waving it away as if it is a course at dinner from which we choose not to partake. We ought to dig in and take a healthy portion from its plate and vote, because so many in the world are starving for the chance to dine at suffrage’s table.