Those who didn't vote have little room to complain

Posted: Friday, October 08, 2004

"To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain."

-- Louis L'Amour

Less than 25 percent. That's how many registered Kenai Peninsula Borough voters showed up at the polls Tuesday. According to the Nielsen television ratings, that's fewer than the combined number of Borough residents who sat down to watch either Monday Night Football or "Everybody Loves Raymond" the night before the election.

There are approximately 37,731 registered voters on the peninsula, of which just over nine thousand were able to get to the polls between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday. That's unacceptable.

In Kenai, voters had the chance to elect a new mayor for the first time in nearly two decades. This historic opportunity was seized by just 26 percent of Kenai voters.

In Nikiski, a highly-charged debate was waged in the months leading up the the election over the important issues of police protection, property taxes and recreation. After much public outcry on either side, a whopping 37 percent of registered voters decided these issues for the rest of Nikiski.

Perhaps the outcome of Monday's game was so overwhelming that the other 65 to 75 percent of Kenai and Nikiski voters were unable to bring themselves to vote the next day. That's unlikely. After all, how many Baltimore Ravens fans can there be around here?

People have the right to choose not to vote. They also have the right to complain when the vote does not go their way. But those who choose to complain after failing to vote have little room to argue.

The founders of this nation fought and died for the basic freedom that voting offers all of us. Because of their sacrifices, we now live in a place were the people decide how and by whom they will be governed.

But when the people decide not to exercise this right, everyone loses. The system we live in breaks down, and a select few make the choices for the many.

A system where the few determine the fate of the many runs directly contrary to everything this nation was founded on.

Alaskans, especially, should be ashamed of their apathetic voting record. This state prides itself on its independent nature, yet more and more appears to be a place becoming more beholden to the will of the few and the apathy of the masses.

It seems the only thing that can get Alaskan voters to the polls these days is to tell them their Permanent Fund Dividend is in jeopardy. Then you'll see a high voter turnout.

It's a sad day when more people care less about freedom and more about free money.

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