Ron Kaye: Surrendering power, abdicating responsibility

Voting is the most important fundamental right, the most important civic duty citizens have.

March 18, 2011|By Ron Kaye

In the scandal-ridden city of Bell, barely a third of voters recently turned out at the polls to throw out the officials who allegedly looted the treasury.

That was nearly three times the percentage that cast ballots in the March 8 Los Angeles municipal election, in which six City Council members were returned to office despite widespread discontent over closed libraries, parks and fire stations, soaring utility rates and a worsening budget crisis.

Only 14.3% of registered voters could bother to participate in Burbank’s recent primary election and the turnout will surely be lower for the runoff between Emily Gable-Luddy and Bob Frutos on April 12.


Glendale turnout rarely goes much above 20% and that is likely what will occur at the city elections on April 5.

Even in presidential elections, one in five of those registered in California doesn’t vote, and one in four eligible voters don’t even care enough to register.

The right to vote and choose our leaders — something oppressed people across the Arab world are putting their lives on the line to get — is taken for granted here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It makes you wonder what would happen if they held an election and no one came.

Or better yet, what if they held an election and everyone came out and voted because it was compulsory?

More than 30 nations around the world require citizens to register and to vote — a dozen enforce the requirement with fines, and even publish the names of those who don’t vote to expose them to public opprobrium.

That’s what Australia does, including many towns and cities. The result is a 96% voter turnout — something made easier by holding elections on weekends, when people have free time and few excuses.

Voting is the most fundamental right, the most important civic duty we have. Yet most people surrender their power and abdicate their responsibility.

In L.A., as few as 4,000 votes were enough to re-elect a council member in a San Fernando Valley district with 270,000 residents.

So much for majority rules, so much for democracy. We’re talking about barely 1% of the population deciding who shall make decisions about their lives, their neighborhoods, their city and its future.

What legitimacy does that bestow on the elected official?

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