Ballot over Bullet

Voting is one of the most valued possessions many Indians are given and yet do not use. In that statement it may seem like an oxymoron, a possession that is not actually used and yet so highly valued. In India today we are privileged enough to see history made in many different arenas and yet we stand back and do not take part. To understand the importance of voting it might be easier to understand the suffering that went into allowing all Indians to vote equally. In addition, it is understandable to be confused with all the laws and political terms thrown around, but those too are also easy to understand if you know where to look. And finally, it is important for all Indians to step back and see what is happening to our way of life and decide if we are happy with it. Voting is a privilege that many people consider a right, and yet so many are unable to even accomplish this much, any able body should take advantage of this and follow through with democracy. The right to vote is a key political right in any democracy. With independence and a new Constitution, Indians got the right to vote relatively easily. Article 326 of the Indian Constitution grants the right to vote to “every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than 18 years of age.”

The current situation in India could be very well defined by what Kin Hubbard said “We would all like to vote for the best man but he is never a candidate.”

In spite of being the World’s largest democratic country we (India) have only 50 ~ 55 % voting intensity, which is a shame. This means that half of our population is voting. Out of this, majority of people are living in urban areas and consider ‘Election Day’ only as a public holiday. This is a non democratic behavior, and we need to blame ourselves for this.

The reason for this is distrust of common man on his representative. This atmosphere has made a belief in common man that all the representatives are same, no matter whichever party they belong to. People believe that neither the representatives will hear their concern nor they will work for them. Then why should they vote and even if they did vote then how big a difference will it make?

Mahatma Gandhi once said that “My Notion of Democracy is that under it, the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest’ this right to vote, though taken for granted in our society now, was not quite as easy to gain. Since colonization in Australia in 1788, the rightful elders of our land have fought hard to be granted the rights they deserve and are entitled to. After colonization, indigenous Australians had their land rights revoked and consequently couldn’t vote. Sixty two years later, in 1850 when all Australian men could vote, our indigenous inhabitants were still not encouraged or entitled to do so. Five years later when they claimed all women were eligible to vote, indigenous women were still excluded. Voting is Important and the more we participate and speak out, the more we raise awareness in others, totake action and to show the importance of voting and taking part. By becoming involved we not only voteto have a say,but to preserve our cultural knowledge, identity, language and to stand by our rights.Our forebears worked towards bridging Indigenous inequality and we should feel obligated to continue their legacy.

Theodore Roosevelt said “A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”

People often choose not to vote because they feel their vote does not count, but one vote does count in many ways. Your choice to vote or not, will have far reaching consequences on people all over the world, many of whom do not have the right to vote themselves. In local and national elections, lawmakers are elected who make laws, policies, and appointments that will have effects for years to come. The most common reason people say they do not vote is, one vote does not count, but it does. If everyone used an excuse and did not vote, what kind of government would we have? Many people choose not to vote; they believe that this choice only has an effect on them; this is simply not the truth. Your choice not to vote has consequences for people not only in this country, but also all over the world. Many people in other countries cannot vote and some die every day fighting for this right. In Afghanistan the first elections in many years have been recently held despite the threats of violence and disruption by the Taliban, mostly aimed at blocking a woman’s right to vote.
Ours is by far the largest democracy in the known universe, equal to the population of the next five democracies, including the US and Brazil. We have been called a flawed democracy, and indeed there are times when we find ourselves drowning in hopelessness and cynicism, when the only change we see is for the worse. But it is also that help us appreciate beauty when it shines through. And there is no greater beauty than to behold the will of the people being given voice without their having to resort to violence. Imagine the power of 815 million people exercising their constitutionally-given franchise in a largely disciplined and peaceable manner, voting in and out representatives and governments that they, in their collective wisdom, believe will or won’t serve their interests. There is a magic to voting that people in totalitarian states can never grasp, and those in smaller democracies can only wonder at.

Talking about the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, these elections have all the firsts, such as:-

The transgender community will have the opportunity to vote under the ‘Others’ category, which was introduced in 2010.

NOTA- It will be the India’s first Lok Sabha elections to have the NOTA (None of the above) option, allowing voters to reject all fielded candidates. These elections will have the highest number of first-time voters in India’s electoral history, estimated at around 15 crore. In 2009, not even one party polled more than 15 crore votes. The “none of the above” (NOTA) button that electronic voting machines will have from now on does not give you the ‘the right to reject’ all candidates. The new provision does not mean that all candidates in a constituency stand rejected or defeated if the number of NOTA votes exceeds the number garnered by the highest vote-getter. For example: Even if there are 99 NOTA votes out of a total of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X is the winner, having obtained the only valid vote. The rest will be treated as invalid or ‘no votes’ NOTA may not affect election results, the option would “ensure secrecy of the voter wanting to make a choice that amounts to abstention, and also to ensure that nobody casts a bogus vote in his place. A voter may refrain from voting for several reasons, including the reason that he does not consider any of the candidates worthy of his vote. One of the ways of such expression may be to abstain from voting by not turning up at all, which is not an ideal option for a conscientious and responsible citizen. Thus, the only way by which it may be made effectual is by providing a button in the EVMs to express that right. This is the basic requirement if the lasting values in a healthy democracy have to be sustained, which the Election Commission has not only recognized but also asserted.

For the first time in Lok Sabha elections, some voters will get instant feedback to verify that their votes are cast as intended. The voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) will generate a receipt after the vote is cast. The receipt will have a serial number, name and symbol of the candidate. The receipt, once viewed, goes inside a container linked to the EVM and can only be accessed by the election officers in the rarest of rare cases. This system is being tested at a few polling stations; All 543 constituencies are expected to be covered before the 2019 general elections.

With all this talk of voting you might ask why you should bother to vote at all. Does your vote actually mean anything? Many today complain about politicians not listening to the public. Of course, if we do not bother to vote our voice will not be heard by our elected officials in the first place. Our elected representatives are guided by what we say particularly when we vote. And if we don’t vote we are telling our politicians that we don’t care what they do and that is a dangerous thing to tell them.

If you want change, your first duty is to vote your conscience. Democracy doesn’t work unless you participate. The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men. Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is elections.

No one can dispute that the system has imperfections. We know only too wee how routinely and horribly our elected representatives can let us down. But, at least there is a check and balance in the form of elections. They give us a chance to hold our representatives accountable. The stakes for 2014 Lok Sabha Elections are huge- for us and for the nation. These elections could well shape the destiny of India, for better or for worse. The best thing about an Election is that each of us has a voice- an equal music, if we will. An opportunity such as this comes to us but once in 5 years. Do you want to let it pass by you? Democracy, in its purest form, is about the power of one Vote. Be that one vote.APTOPIX India Elections


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