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Opting out is not an option

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The candidates have been nominated, the period of special registration is over. The next big step in the elections process will take place on December 9 when the electorate go to the polls to vote for the candidate or party of their choice.

The campaign leading up to next month’s polls has been extremely intense and the two main political parties, in their efforts to energize their bases and win new voters to their side have been pulling out all the stops.{{more}} It may therefore be surprising to some that there still are a fair number of eligible voters who up to this point, are unlikely to go out to vote.

These non-voters come in four types. Firstly, there are those who, after looking at what the political parties and their candidates have to offer, find that none of them are worthy of their vote. The second set of persons are those who, for one reason or the other are so upset with their party or candidate that they have decided not to vote for them, but their grievance is not so deep-seated to propel them to vote for the other side. The third group of voters are those who are genuinely confused, while those who couldn’t care less make up the fourth group.

We would respectfully ask those who are leaning towards not voting to think again. Voting is a right denied many around the world and which should not be taken for granted. Prior to universal adult suffrage in 1951, the right to vote was not automatically accorded to Vincentian adults. Reflect a bit on the attitude to voting, of our citizens who are today, 80 years or older. They are never lukewarm about the process, which they view not just as a right, but an obligation.

Look, the only real power we have in saying how our country should be run is through voting. When we do not vote, we relinquish that power to someone else, making it easier for that person to get what he or she wants, which may not necessarily be in our interest. Additionally, our children are depending on us to represent their voices. They cannot vote, but government policies have a direct impact on them and determine what opportunities they have in the future. If you don’t want to vote for yourself, do it for your children.

And yes, one vote really does count. There is power in numbers, and there have been occasions in the Caribbean where candidates have won their seats by fewer than five votes. If you don’t vote for whom you believe in, others will and you may not like the outcome.

Finally, electors should put aside petty personal issues and look at the bigger picture when deciding whether or not to vote and who to vote for.

In the last general elections in December 2010, there was a voter turnout of 62 per cent of the eligible registered voters.

Despite the lethargy among some voters, this time around, the official voter turnout is expected to be much greater; maybe in excess of 80 per cent, consequent upon Parliament passing legislation earlier this year to allow the Supervisor of Elections to clean up the voters’ list. The names of over 20,000 persons who had not re-registered in the past 10 years were removed. It had been widely accepted that the list which had been used in the last few general elections was bloated and needed to be cleaned up.

The upcoming general elections are too important for any of our citizens to opt out of the process. We urge you to take another look at the issues, reflect on our country and its needs and make a proactive decision in the best interest of all the people.

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