#VOTE a formal indication of a choice between two or more candidates or courses of action, expressed typically through a ballot or a show of hands or by voice. Historically, we’ve seen how “literacy tests” and other false measures of “competence” have been used to disenfranchise voters of color and the less well-off. There’s reason to believe that compulsory voting and its complementary reforms would increase citizen knowledge. Resources that were previously used for turning out the electorate could instead be reallocated to educating and persuading voters. Candidates and political parties would need to appeal to all voters, not just “likely” voters. Moreover, we propose enriching our nation’s civic culture by expanding civic education in schools, encouraging engagement in the election process, and conducting widespread voter education campaigns.
On the question of erratic or unpredictable election results, it’s hard to believe that elections could be more erratic or unpredictable than they have been recently. Many people think that who or what we vote for doesn’t affect their lives at all. BUT…The air we breathe, the water we drink, sidewalks, parks, roads, schools, health… to name just a few, are all affected by how we vote. Ask your students to think about ways that government laws and policies are connected to their lives. If you are following specific candidates, find out about their positions. One of the most critical ways that individuals can influence governmental decision-making is through voting. Voting is a formal expression of preference for a candidate for office or for a proposed resolution of an issue. Voting generally takes place in the context of a large-scale national or regional election, however, local and small-scale community elections can be just as critical to individual participation in government.
While the right to vote is widely recognized as a fundamental human right, this right is not fully enforced for millions of individuals around the world. Consistently disenfranchised groups include non-citizens, young people, minorities, those who commit crimes, the homeless, disabled persons, and many others who lack access to the vote for a variety of reasons including poverty, illiteracy, intimidation, or unfair election processes. An important force in combating disenfranchisement is the growth of organizations engaged in election monitoring. Around the world, governments struggle to meet the challenge of the Universal Declaration related to free and fair elections. Election monitoring groups, ranging from local or party monitors to United Nations teams, assist governments and local groups to hold free and fair elections by observing the process from the beginning (voter education, candidate campaigns, planning for the ballot) to the end vote count. By declaring an election ‘free and fair’ monitors can legitimize the outcome of that election. Conversely, by not doing so, legitimacy is withheld.
The question of whether or not to grant legitimacy to election results is complicated by political considerations, as the results of declaring elections ‘not free nor fair’ can be serious. Riots and even civil war can break out. Free and fair elections play a critical role in ensuring voting rights. International and regional governmental groups, along with non-governmental organizations, work around the world to observe and monitor human rights related to elections processes. Several international and regional documents have outlined international standards for elections.