Fun Facts About Voting

Below are some fun facts to get everyone pumped for the 2013 Philippine Midterm Elections today, which will decide over 18,000 national and local government positions!

This was inspired by the public service ads created by the nonpartisan group Rock the Vote for the US Presidential Elections in 2008 (Don’t Vote, starring Leo, Ellen, Halle, Jen — no last names necessary) and 2012 (History of Voting, starring Perez Hilton, John Legend, Darren Criss, et al).

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Note: This won’t tell you how to vote, so if you want to form your own opinions about different candidates, check out the following Crib Notes for the 2013 Philippine Midterm Elections:

  • Guide to Senatorial and Local Candidates c/o UP Halalan 2013 (or, for the truly tamad, automatically generate your list of 12 senators via Politi-ko — try at your own risk!)
  • Coverage of the Elections via Rappler

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The right to vote originated in ancient Athens, the birthplace of democracy. The word “democracy,” which came from the Greek words for “people” (demos) and “power”/ “force” (kratos), actually may have been used in a derogatory fashion (i.e., to connote “mob rule”) by the elite, who would have resented being outvoted by commoners on political matters that they had traditionally controlled. Democracy and democratic elections were revolutionary because unlike with other forms of government, all citizens could directly participate in their government, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

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Athenian democracy was a direct democracy, meaning citizens voted directly on the policies that would govern them. Each citizen could be drafted to serve for a year in the city-state’s law-making body, and all citizens were required to vote on new laws created by the body.

Being informed about public affairs was part of a citizen’s duties, so much so that  not exercising one’s right to vote on matters that divided the state was punishable by loss of citizenship. (Solon, whose words Aristotle or his followers documented in the constitution, condemned those who out of “sheer indifference” just “accepted whatever” the outcome of the disputes without voting on them.)

Additionally, citizens who had not completed military training or those whose rights were under suspension (e.g., for failure to pay taxes or debts — modern nations could learn a thing or two from Athens!) were barred from voting. Voting was thus both a civic duty, as well as a privilege that could be suspended if one did not perform the rest of one’s civic duties.

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In hindsight, some say that Athenian democracy was still a thinly veiled oligarchy because only a few wealthy citizens truly had clout in that society… particularly since the definition of “citizenship” was rather limited. While the system wasn’t perfect, it lay the foundation for many modern democracies.

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Today, we have representative democracies, in which citizens vote for representatives, who then make (and vote on) laws and rules according to the people’s interests. (The direct form of democracy would be quite difficult to implement for modern nations, which are much more complex and diverse than the ancient Greek city-states!)

A former American colony, the Philippines adopted many of the governmental institutions and electoral policies of the United States. The US largely continued the tradition started by Athens (and succeeding democracies in world history, such as France) — rule by the people and for the people, which started with making the voting process more inclusive. Through the years, artificial barriers such as race and gender fell one by one as the rest of the world watched.

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Like the US, the Philippines also had to overcome hurdles to allow all its citizens to participate in its elections. The 1935 Philippine Constitution set to right the oversight in the 1899 Constitution (written in Malolos after the Philippine declaration of independence from Spain) that barred women from voting. Thanks to the Filipinas who passionately campaigned for change, all Filipino women today enjoy the right to take part in politics and public affairs. (The country has had two female presidents, and nobody batted an eyelash… That is, concerns about their ability to lead were never gender-specific. No wonder the country has been voted the top place to be a woman in Asia, and 17th in the world.)

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Though it proudly bears the mantle of Asia’s First Democracy, Philippine elections have not been without scandal. Aside from rampant cheating and election-related violence under previous administrations, the chief complaint about the whole political system is the concentration of power in the hands of a few warring clans (which have led detractors to liken the system to a feudal oligarchy). Futhermore, the lack of political maturity among voters has led to “personalities overpower[ing] parties as political entities, with few distinguishing characteristics between parties.”  More on that issue here. (When I tell my American friends that the Philippines has a multi-party system, many of them say it seems preferable to their polarized bipartisan system. The grass is always greener!)

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Everything is a work in progress — even nations. Just as the concept of democracy  evolved through the ages (with the voting process becoming more and more representative of the people), the Philippines is on a path to development that the current administration has set in motion. Whether or not we can sustain this positive growth trajectory will depend on the type of leaders we choose in the upcoming elections.

So go forth, research each candidate’s platform + track record, and exercise your hard-earned right (or, as the Athenians might say, perform your duty) to vote!

As history has proven time and again, your one vote could very well be the one that changes the course of an entire nation.

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References:

Cartledge, Paul. “The Democratic Experiment.” History. BBC. 17 Feb. 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/greeks/greekdemocracy_01.shtml

Aristotle. Athenian Constitution. Part 1, Section 8. The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. Yale Law School. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/athe1.asp

Hancock, Roger. “One Vote Does Count.” Poet Patriot. 2007. http://www.poetpatriot.com/timeline/tmln-1vote-Intl-othr.htm#Power%20of%20one%20vote

2 responses to “Fun Facts About Voting

  1. Pingback: To Demand Change or to Create Solutions for Change? | Living Income's Notes·

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