May 2: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on getting out to vote:

Posted: Monday, May 08, 2000

The furor in Miami, if it means nothing else to us living so far north of the street demonstrations, hints at the importance recent immigrants attach to living in a free society.

Those of us fortunate enough to come of age as a citizen in these United States often take for granted the rights embodied in free elections.

We the people decide who will lead our government. We the people hold final say on proposed amendments to our state and federal constitutions.

On occasions, such as today, we the people are also asked to decide whether we support the community's investment in major public projects, recognizing the long-term commitment such bonds entail for local taxpayers.

Again, it's a free choice. One that affirms the proud legacy bestowed by this nation's founding fathers, a heritage that gives each voter a voice in this rare breed of government created by the people, for the people.

Sure, all we have before us today is a school bond election. Many of us may feel we have more pressing appointments to keep.

If special elections held over the last decade in the Fairbanks North Star Borough are any indication, fewer than a third of the municipality's eligible voters will cast a ballot. That's not a localized phenomena. Last year's advisory election on spending a portion of Permanent Fund earnings to pay for government -- an issue impacting every recipient of the annual dividend checks -- drew just 41.7 percent of all Alaska voters to the polls.

Participation was lowest among voters aged 18 to 24. The statewide turnout was 22.6 percent among our younger voters, who arguably possess the greatest stake in the continuing public debate over the future of the state's oil-savings account.

How disheartening.

The indifference displayed by individuals too busy or otherwise preoccupied to vote contributes to perceptions that government operates at the beck and call of the powerful. Low turnout inevitably empowers special interests organized to marshal supporters dedicated to imposing their agendas on the community at large.

Consider the message such indifference sends to the family of Elian Gonzalez and others back in Cuba subject to Castro's dictatorship.

Indeed, what does it say to subjects of totalitarian governments around the world when a majority of we the people blessed with the right to vote -- don't even bother.

Take a quiet stand today in celebration of personal freedom.

Make time to vote.

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