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The voice of God

/ 05:14 AM September 28, 2018

Tomorrow, Sept. 29, will be the last day for voter registration for the 2019 midterm elections.

Earlier this month, Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez said via his Twitter account that being a registered voter puts one in the position “to help bring about actual change.” The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting also reminded the public of tomorrow’s deadline.

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One of the strongest appeals, however, came from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which specifically addressed the nation’s youth population, which will comprise more than 45 percent of the electorate. Surely, that is a remarkable figure.

If young people ever feel helpless or powerless in contributing to nation-building, the upcoming May 2019 elections should make them believe otherwise. The figures don’t lie. We are in a position to make a major impact. DILG spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya pointed out that voting is the most concrete way to participate in our country’s democracy. “Do it for yourself, for your family and friends, for our country,” he said.

Two days ago, the United States, which is also gearing up for its midterm elections, celebrated National Voter Registration Day. We don’t have such a day here, but it seems like a good idea.

Apparently, the day is celebrated every fourth Tuesday of September each year, and was first held in 2012. Social media and the internet quickly jumped in on celebrating the day, as Google Doodle redesigned the Google logo specifically for it, and the hashtags #NationalVoterRegistration and #MidtermsOnMyTerms were used. The main objective of the “holiday” is to bring the importance of voter registration into every conversation, and encourage citizens to participate in the political process.

I wish we had the same vigor and enthusiasm for voter registration here, especially in mobilizing the younger generation to vote. Registering is rarely a topic of conversation among young people. As it is, the midterm polls do not generate voter turnout as much as national elections do, for obvious reasons. If the 2016 voter turnout was 81.95 percent of the registered voting population, the 2019 midterm elections may not reach that high a figure.

Voter registration becomes even more crucial in light of how democracy appears to continue its retreat globally. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index for 2017 has a map showing that a third of 167 countries are now under authoritarian rule. These countries, shaded red or orange in the map, are mostly in Africa and Asia. Our country, shaded blue, belongs to the group of still-democratic countries, the majority of which are in the Americas and Europe.

We often take for granted our right to vote. Elections are something the young generation has grown accustomed to. Perhaps for many millennials, voting is one of those rudimentary and mundane rites of passage to adulthood, like filing taxes or getting a license.

This is not a surprise, as most millennials were born in the 1990s—a time when democracy seemed to be the dominant ideology. Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century” in 1991, and Francis Fukuyama published “The End of History and the Last Man” in 1992, where he predicted the universalization of Western liberal democracy.

But two decades later, we have a book like “How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. In it, the authors write that democratic recessions find their roots in the ballot box.

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The Latin phrase “Vox populi, vox Dei,” or “The voice of the people is the voice of God,” succinctly captures the nature of elections. For a generation so accustomed to democracy, going to the election precinct every now and then may feel perhaps even an imposition, and thereby forget our responsibility in upholding and protecting that right.

The phrase does not only highlight the sanctity of the election process. It stresses the importance of us voters, too. To vote for our nation’s leaders is, indeed, nothing short of sacred.

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TAGS: election, opinion, Philippines, voter registration
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