By Linda Harris
By Linda Harris
Morocco World News
Miami, Nov 6, 2012
There is a presidential election taking place in the United States of America in 2012, and November 6th is the big day when the people come out and cast their vote. America is a democracy, and in a democracy, almost everyone over the age of 18 has a right to vote. Although voter participation in the United States is overall on acceptable levels, it is, as in most other democracies, an ongoing concern. Ensuring that the public participates is essential to the sustainability of democracy. Encouraging the people to ‘get out the vote’, therefore, is a major part of any election.
For thousands of immigrants in America, who have been naturalized in the last 4 years, this election is their first opportunity to vote. Others have had voting rights for many years, yet choose not to go to the voting booths on Election Day. Included in this category are many Moroccan American citizens who opt to be politically passive and stay home.
This, however, is unfortunate for many reasons. There are many aspects of integration that are negotiable, but voting is not one of them. Voting not only gives a person a universal identity in society, it is also a duty; a responsibility that one must take seriously once a new citizenship into a democracy has been accepted and voting rights are granted.
Some choose not to vote because they worry about showing loyalty to their original heritage. But, voting is not treason to your birth nation and there is not wrong or right way to vote. Some Moroccan’s may feel compelled to vote for a democratic leader that may be more favorable to Moroccan royalty, or vote for someone who may be more likely to invest into Moroccan economy. Others may feel a need to vote, primarily, for someone who better meets the needs of day to day life in the new nation. Others again, may vote according to religious conviction or immigration ethics. Whatever are the motivating factors are irrelevant. What matters is that the people do vote and do so without worry of consequences.
Democratic voting in the west is strictly confidential and closely guarded by voting oversight. In most polling stations, there are some level of security present to ensure privacy and public safety. Although, there are cases of voter fraud, those are so minimal that they are statistically insignificant. In the privacy of the voting booth, or at home – for those who choose to use absentee voting – one can take sides without offending loyalties to any nation. It is not only legal, it is expected.
Voting is also an important aspect of integration. By voting, one actively participates in the society in which one lives. By voting, a person gets a stake in the outcome, even in the smallest of ways. If the person you voted for wins, that politician represents your values and ideals and he or she legislates and builds upon society on your behalf. In that way, your voice become part of the society and society becomes part of you; thus promoting positive integration and higher immigration success rate.
Voting means power. After years of living as a status-less immigrant within a democracy, often without right to vote in either the new country or the home nation, exercising voting rights are a way reclaim ones personal power as a full and whole citizen. Voting gives every citizen a sense of importance and a sense of belonging; thus giving him, or her, a heightened sense of self and self-esteem.
What is more, voting is also a way of showing social responsibility and camaraderie to those in the immigrant community who are not yet eligible to vote. By having the legal right to vote, immigrants have gained a voice, a means to make changes in their community. Who better knows the needs and desires of immigrants than those who have already been there!? Getting voting rights through naturalization in most democracies is a slow process but it does happen eventually. Still, so many who are waiting for their status change cannot yet vote and so many have no representation at all. There is a bond of unity between those who can vote and those who cannot. It is incumbent that those who have earned voting rights come out on Election Day and keep their peers in mind when they vote.
Some argue that voting is not a civic duty. It is a right and a privilege. But for immigrants, it is also something earned, often, after many years of living within a society with no rights to participate in any electoral processes. Immigrants have often sat at home in silence, while other members of society, citizens of the nation, made decisions on their behalf. Although many come from nations that have some level of democratic elections, those are often ripe with fraud and many have grown up feeling some resentment to any electoral process.
This attitude, however, has no place in a firm democracy and should be rendered. Democracy needs to be constantly nurtured by civic engagement. The core ideal of democracy is that the people rule. If the people stop engaging themselves, democracy suffers. If no one shows up to vote, democracy becomes a farce. In that sense, voting is a duty. It is a duty to support the new nation of which one has become a citizen and voting is a way of exercising that duty and give back to the nation one has sworn to protect.
There are no excuses for not voting and immigrants are some of the best qualified to go to the booths. Frustration is often voiced by members of the public who see people go to the booths who are uninformed and opinionated. That is not the case for most immigrants. Immigrants don’t come without knowledge. Often immigrants who are naturalized, are far better educated on the composition of the parliamentary procedures than the local born populations and because immigrants have gone so long without representations, they know who will better understand and fight for their needs.
Citizenship status carries responsibilities. In America, part of that responsibility is to live by the principles and values consistent with those implied in the Constitution. One of the core ideals of being a citizen is a democracy such is proactivity. Election Day is the day to take the Constitution seriously. It is a right and a duty, a privilege – and a means to better your own life. If you live in America today and you have the right to vote, don’t delay. Get out and vote.
Linda Harris was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. She has a BA in Psychology with minors in Religion and Philosophy, Magna cum Laude, from the University of North Florida. She also holds a MA in Practical Philosophy and Applied Ethics from the University of North Florida. Ms. Harris has worked as an Instructor and has taught Philosophy to students at Daytona State College, Florida for 3 years, as well as International Relations Theory at the University of Florida. She is currently working on her PhD in Philosophy, which involves data collection and research in Morocco. Her research includes ethics of gender, religion, and cultural identity in Morocco and in Moroccan immigrant communities. She is a contributor to Morocco World News (Email: [email protected]).
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