The people who cast the votes decide nothing.
The people who count the votes decide everything.”
While we don’t necessarily agree with the former Soviet leader on the way elections work, there is something worthwhile to consider in his words. Without a fair and honest election process with voters who care, those in power will decide the fate of the people. While some may argue that happens in this country as well, albeit in a more subtle way, we disagree. We feel the true power still lies with the people, as long as they vote and demand accountability from their leaders.
Vermonters go to the polls on Tuesday for the bi-annual primary election. While to many a state primary election seems about exciting as watching paint dry, a primary is really an important part of our political process.
Voting is important, at any election, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, a good turnout at an election tells political leaders that voters are paying attention, and that they care about issues. A low turnout may seen as apathy, and may lead to political misconduct.
Certainly the Stalin quote above is an extreme example of what happens when the people don’t hold their leaders accountable, but that’s the point. An apathetic voting public, one that takes the right to choose leaders for granted, may end up with a despot and lose that very right to choose. It may not happen here, but it very well may, if citizens don’t pay attention or don’t care when elections roll around.
Consider the Vermont primary. Whoever gets elected this fall will help shape Vermont’s path during the next two years, and beyond. Health care, education, roads and bridges, just about anything the state government touches, will be influenced by who sits in the Statehouse.
That all starts with voting in the primary.
Residents, especially younger ones, tend to think of primaries as throw-aways, where party faithful line up to pick and choose and rubber stamp the front runner with the most name recognition. But we beg to differ.
There may be a really good candidate, one who will serve the people well, but if voters don’t recognize that candidate’s abilities and vote accordingly, another candidate with more name recognition but less ability may win the primary. That’s a big part of how good candidates fail. It’s not for ideas, but for lack of support against a name-brand candidate.
In Vermont primary voters, because they don’t have to declare party affiliation, can shape the outcome of a general election. Think someone in the Republican primary would be a better candidate for governor than the party’s anointed front runner? Take a Republican ballot. Like a Democratic candidate for the senate? Take one of those. Like a Progressive or Liberty Union candidate. Let you pencil do your talking, and vote for them.
Sure, it’s only the primary. An honestly, there hasn’t been much excitement about the election. But that doesn’t mean voters shouldn’t care.
For a reminder that primaries truly do matter, one doesn’t need to look too far back into Vermont history. In the 2010 Democratic primary, current Gov. Peter Shumlin survived a brutal five-way primary by less than 200 votes. Now he’s considered a virtual lock to win a third term in the fall.
Funny how things work that way, and funny how voters sometime forget how important the little things can be. Had another 1% of the Vermont electorate cast ballots in 2010, we might have someone else in the corner office right now.
While it may seem rare that an election in this country is stolen, there are fine lines between our free elections and the staged elections of totalitarian regimes like Stalinist Russia.
Those fine lines start with voters taking care of business, picking a candidate, and holding candidates accountable. That business begins on Tuesday.