Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Secret Ballot
I've just finished watching a great little show on SBS our Multi-cultural government channel about the American Dream. .It's called 'Insight' and involves a panel of disparate people who discuss social, political and community topics and air their points of view, ably chaired by host Jenny Brockie. Tonight she was in New York and among other discussions on the American Dream, she asked the small audience who were they going to vote for, or indeed whether they were going to vote. Some answered candidly, some kept their views to themselves. There were the obvious Obama supporters, the stalwart McCain crew but quite a number of non-committals and this was across a broad section of the NY community from ghetto dweller's to academics.
To me, the concept of a voluntary vote is an alien thing. Here, voting is compulsory whether for your local Council (nope I didn't vote a couple of weeks ago because I believe local councils are irrelevant and I had no idea - even after research - what each candidate stood for, so I'm waiting for my $50 fine to arrive to bolster their dubious coffers) or for State or Federal elections.
However, on a State or Federal level, I always vote. I could just turn up and have my name ticked off the list. I could even write an obscenity on the ballot papers which these days are about 5 metres wide . . but no . . I vote. I take the easy numbered 1, 2, 3 option rather than voting for each individual representative and often use the "How to Vote" card from my preferred political candidate, but I do vote. Often against the grain in my electorate which is considered Blue Ribbon Liberal.
In Australia, Liberal is slightly right of centre. Not as right as the English Conservative party or the American Republicans but right 'ish. Labour is more left, unionised and socialist but the difference between the two political parties has been muddied over the years as unions are less powerful and Australians have enjoyed a decade of affluence under John Howard's (ex Prime Monster's) leadership. Whichever way I vote, it's my decision and it is a secret. I have discussed my politics with my kids and others but never discussed for whom I voted. Adam has voted in only one State and one Federal Election. Clare in two State and one Federal Election so they are still formative in their opinions, interested but not too much but they do my opinion which I give but try not to sway their decisions either way. Let's face it, they're young, many of the policy statements have little relevance for them - but they do have to turn up and on all occasions they assure me they have made a legitimate stand.
My point . . whilst I'm not particularly shy about my politics which are poorly informed, slightly left of centre (and I've been criticised more than once for being pink, leftist or socialist when in fact I'm not that radical) my voting habits are my business and nobody else's. That's why it's a 'secret ballot'. However I do believe that 'making' people at least turn up at the polling booth and taking a ballot paper, does encourage them to vote one way or the other. I've worked on polling booths in the past and you'd be surprised at the low number of Donkey votes.
Sure, you get the odd ballot paper with a knob drawn on it or some home spun diatribe on why that particular person decided not to vote or even the odd obscenity . . but off all the ballot papers, very few . . and I mean, very few - count on two hands few . . did not vote. (For the record, I've worked in polling booths on both sides of the fence).
Voting is an obligation, an empowerment, your chance to have a say, you're only opportunity to shape the government that dictates your future for the next four years - it's a basic freedom that some think worthy of dying for! Even if you just cancel out an opposing vote, it is worth it. Women fought for it and won the right to vote in 1901, Aboriginals only gained it in 1962 and it only became compulsory for them in 1983! More so, if you don't vote, don't complain about the powers that rule you . .
I don't care too much how Americans vote in November although I do have my preferences from a foreign policy point of view - I'd like to see a move away from the Bush regime as his legacy will be only to have involved the coalition of the willing in two nasty wars, one completely illegitimate and let's face it, the man lacks eloquence and his rise to power was highly dubious, through nothing more than a high court ruling. (God, Al Gore must be so pissed off). McCain . . seems sensible/experienced, his offsider dangerous. Obama innovative but inexperienced, his offsider adds legitimacy. Either way, your President is not your ruler. It's the public service that run the country! One thing I do hope for, is that more Americans will turn out and vote - it is your right, your responsibility and something which so many oppressed nations would love to be able to do - value it - take it seriously - turn up at the polling booth so that the best man, the popular leader, the legitimately voted President really does win!
And in other news: After the events of today, 9% drop on Wall Street, 4% in Australia and most of Europe, the failure of the bail out package to pass by the House of Reps (failed by 23 votes only) and even more surprising, the closure of the House due to a Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year! (WTF! the world's in economic crisis and they close Government for two days - wonder if they're aware it's also Ramadan?) . . .Guess who's market was largely unaffected . . .China . .0.2% drop in the Shenzhen. Now that speaks volumes for us all.