“Voting is the foundation stone for political action.” This is a quote by Martin Luther King, after his involvement in the 1965 Selma protests. Martin Luther king was a major influential figurehead in the civil rights movement in America. Helping to gain equality for African Americans through their fundamental human rights; such as the right to vote. Voting is one the most basic forms of giving an opinion, and is a fundamental human right for all, according to most countries. Voting is an important and necessary tool for a fair society to function, and is an act carried out by all those that believe in a fair system and society. There are many aspects to voting and its history that carry relevance into our present and future with voting, some of which are common democratic voting systems, their workings and stages. The benefits of voting for people of all class level and the overall betterment of our current systems. And lastly the ways in which voting helps those who face disadvantages from unfair systems of oppression in our modern societies. Learning about some of these key aspects stated above, can give a reader a further informed opinion in voting for themselves and a greater insight into the ways in which their vote will affect them.
The word democracy comes from the greek words “dêmos” which means people or neighbourhood and “krátos” meaning force or power; meaning that the word democracy literally translates to “people power.” The earliest recorded forms of democratic voting dates back to 6th century BC, when it was introduced in Greece, as part of the Athenian democracy. The Athenian democracy was set up in the city of Athens, and the province of Attica. The area of Attica is recorded as one of the first democratic regions in history. Citizens of the province elected leaders and passed bills via the act of voting. However, their initial vote system, much like our modern version still is, was severely biased and flawed. Attica voters had to be a adult males who were also neither a slave or an “alien, ” this meaning someone born from outside the city of Athens/ province of Attica. This bias obviously greatly affected what laws were passed and leaders put into power at the time, creating a new life for most in Attica from the ideas of only a few. Even with this bias voting, the creation and implementation of even basic voting system to govern large populations was the very start of a more democratic way of governing in our history.
In a 21st century democracy the ideas of basic governing remain the same, but the flaws of bias and corruption still clearly evident; due to each democratic nation modifying the system in order to suit their culture and populous. Most commonwealth countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, hold a fair election. The people vote in members of their communities into parliament to represent different regions of the country, and also a main prime minister who acts as a leader in place the head of state; that currently being the Queen of England in New Zealand and in commonwealth countries. Every New Zealand citizen is automatically enrolled to vote once they reach the age of eighteen, voting however is non-compulsory. In a non-commonwealth country such as Germany, a parliamentary system is also used to govern. According to Germany’s constitution “Act. 38 of German Basic Law, elections are to be universal, direct, free, equal, and secret.” One can vote or be elected once they have reached the age of eighteen in Germany, and much like in the commonwealth, Germany has a two vote system. One vote for a regional representative and one for a head of state; in Germany that is called the Chancellor. The parliamentary system is the most commonly used in democratic nations, as it allows for the most representation of people by their governments. This is due to the addition of regional representatives spanning the country. Regional members are voted in from each district, and so are more able to accurately translate the needs and the wants of that particular region to their representative party, or government. The most important part of voting is representation, giving the people more power over their governments; running them rather than being run by them.
A common misconception around voting is that there is no point in taking action, as a little addition will do nothing to effect real change. To quote the movie Cloud Atlas, “ you are simply one drop in a vast ocean”…”yes, but what is an ocean but a multitude of small drops.” This quote is metaphor for how much impact a collected force of people power can achieve to effect change. One vote counts as much as any other, and every vote will be counted, a single vote can make change happen; meaning that to vote has more power over an outcome than most realise. There is a problem that most voting systems are facing today; the lack of youth voters. It is now the job of the next generation to vote for the future they want to live in. Statistics show that 18-29year olds have the lowest voter turnout percentage and that only 64% of youth voted or are even registered to vote in England. Here in New Zealand all 18-29 year olds are automatically enrolled to vote, while only an average of 62.42% actually make it to the polling stations. These statistics do show that just over half of NewZealand youth are going out and voting, however, this is not enough. The 62.42% of youth voters are currently making the decisions for the rest of this generation, because they are the ones being heard on decisions through their votes. These statistics show that a trend of young people not voting is allowing leaders into parliament and bills to stand by the choice of those who have come before us. By voting and becoming some what more actively involved in what’s happening in the political environments of our respective countries, we can learn about what is happening in our parliaments, and make the change that we wish to see in the world through small direct political actions.
Voting should be fair, and open to all, this has not been the case when looking back into history. For example women had to fight for the right to vote, in a movement called the women’s suffragette. Women eventually gained the right to vote in many countries by late 1920; although women still had to fight to be allowed into parliament and many other aspects of creating an equality based democratic governing even today. Another example of systemic systems of oppression that prevented voting rights for people is in the minorities. People of colour/ minorities of orientation and class level, had to fight for their right firstly to be seen as people, then to qualify for the right to vote in America; a country that prides itself on being the “land of the free.” America was and is one of the wealthiest and most influential democratic nations today and back in the 1900’s when this fight for voting rights first began. Unlike with most nations however, America is a country renowned for corruption in government and for its extortion and under representation of people of colour. Fights against this type of oppression in the voting system were seen in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s onwards, where human rights as well as voting rights were being protested for by the black and Latina communities of America. In the past as stated before governments were decided upon by the highest classes of society, not by all those whom it affects, this has lead to corruption and anger towards the relatively unchanged system still in place today. Now the youth have the responsibility to continue to make our current democratic systems fair and just. They must vote not only for themselves but because they have that right due to the efforts and actions of the people who have come before, and fought for their privilege to vote on issues that really matter. It’s a responsibility that is easy to take on, and means more to those who can’t vote, than those who can realise. Voting can be used as a form of protest, it is a privilege to have the right to vote when it should be a universal right. It is now a responsibility of the youth of today to fight for those who have no voice, giving their vote to help others, to bring about change for those who are being oppressed still by the system, and through this direct action they can be the leaders to a more fair future.
The average democratic voting system should not discriminate, If the person is rich or poor, old or young, whatever their sexual orientation, skin colour, gender or social class level: Each person has the right to a fair vote for a leader they believe best represents their needs and beliefs. Each vote should be private and that is what gives it power. Individuals have the choice to elect a person based on what they chose; with no outside influence once that vote is cast. The people, are the givers of power in our free societies, they control the power and the future of their respective nations, due to a fair democratic system. The people decided who will hold office, the laws that get passed, they control more over their governing than is usually thought to be possible. The voters of our countries have more power than can be conceived over more than could ever be deemed possible. Using that power to help, to encourage and to lead; this is what voting brings about. The average vote from an average person may be enough to sway a decision and change the world for the better, this is why there is a necessity to go out and vote.