• 52°

WHAT WE SAY

L’Observateur / July 22, 1998

We must earn our better government

Again, we’ve made it through another election, and again, the majority didn’t rule. The basic theory behind a democratic form of government isthat an educated, informed electorate – the “body politic” – would gather together, discuss the issues and decide the outcome of elections.

As demonstrated by the election Saturday, again, that was not the case.

This is not a commentary on the election results. Rather, it is acommentary on the lack of participation by the voters and those who could qualify to vote but choose not to do so.

According to election officials, barely 20 percent of the electorate chose to cast their votes in an election which is vital to the future of St. Johnthe Baptist Parish. Issues included the quality of the local public schoolsystem and also the quality of local law enforcement.

This isn’t so much a congratulations to the 20 percent who came to the polls, although congratulations are worthy to those who took time out of their busy weekend schedules to come to the polls. However, it is hoped tochastise that 80 percent who found better things to do.

One is inevitably reminded of our high school civics classes and American history, where we were informed and reminded of the sacrifices made by past generations to insure that we would have that right to vote and make our voices known in issues of public concern. Indeed, it is the voters whoare the most powerful hands in American politics.

It is the American voters who decide who holds public office, from the constable down the street to the parish officials, mayors, governors, senators and all the way to the president. It is the American voters whodecide public issues, by the way they vote, in matters of public debate, especially taxes.

In most other nations, taxes are simply imposed, with no voices heard from the people In most other nations, officials are imposed by other powers not beholden to the electorate. In America, however, the peopledecide.

That is, of course, the American people are supposed to decide. In fact, itis a handful of the people who actually decide. Few elections, save majorelections such as the governor or the president, ever get a majority of the electorate to the polls. Those, such as Saturday’s, are considered “off-elections” and not worth the time or trouble to bother with.

And don’t think elected officials don’t know this and don’t take advantage of this. There are some elected officials who will choose to scheduleimportant tax elections on “off-dates,” knowing the turnout will be low.

They marshal their own troops and muster through the vote, steamrolling something over the “majority” who choose not to rule.

This is not to imply such is the case in Saturday’s election. This is simplyto demonstrate that every election is important. It should be one of ourhighest priorities to make our voices and opinions known at every opportunity. That is why there are periods for public comment atpractically every public-body meeting.

It was said years ago that people eventually get the government they deserve. If we want better, we have to work for it. By showing up onelection day, we will deserve better and get better.

Otherwise, we only deserve what we get.

L’Observateur.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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