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We have a say in how things go, but only if we vote

Twenty-two nations around the world have mandatory voting for citizens age 18 or over. A couple require a slightly older age. While many of these countries are South American, middle eastern or African, the two most of us might identify with are Australia and Belgium.

In some countries, failure to vote can result in a $20 fine. Is that a fair option? Should there be an option?

I would like to know when these laws were begun, what was the impetus, how successful they have been and what the citizens say or feel about it all.

In the U.S., we often show pitiful results at poll turnouts. In an election year such as this, we expect higher turnout than interim years. According to fairvote.org, turnout is about 60 percent in presidential years, 40 percent in others. With all the shouting about constitutional rights and responsibilities, you’d think we’d do better to protect and sustain our way of life and governance, no matter which year or who is running.

What are the reasons or excuses for not voting?

n My vote doesn’t count.

n It doesn’t matter, the candidates are all bad.

n I can’t get to the polls.

n If I go to the polls, I have to stand in line too long.

n My state makes voting difficult for me.

n I forgot ... it’s not really that important.

n I never like the outcome.

n I only vote in presidential years, the rest of the time I don’t care.

n I don’t understand the issues, it’s too complicated and confusing.

If you didn’t vote even one time, what was YOUR reason?

I imagine some people oppose mandatory voting because they don’t want the government telling them what to do. Do they have a driver’s license? Car insurance? Do they get Social Security? Do they buy stamps at the post office to send their mail? Many examples exist in which government requires citizens to comply with certain laws for their general good; perhaps mandatory voting could be one of those.

Certain complainers resent any government action they feel “intrudes” into their lives. I wonder if they think no government would be a better option. Hard to imagine.

Better off with no fire or police departments? Return to the day when only the wealthy could afford to pay subscriptions to such services? Local taxes provide us with 24/7 safety nets that we hope we never need, but when we do, we realize they are priceless. We only get those services if we vote for them. Better off with no say about how taxes are levied, on whom, in what amount and for what purpose? Granted, reform is way overdue in these areas, but we do have a say — if we vote.

When does a day go by that someone is not complaining about funding education? Would people be happier without schools, or only private schools the landed gentry could afford? Do we really want to be more ignorant than we already are?

Perhaps the choice to vote, or not, is squandered on those who don’t deserve it. How precious it would be if we lost it. All is not ideal, hardly perfect, but we have a choice, a voice and a vote.

Susan Munger, a Forest Grove resident, retired from Pacific University as assistant registrar in 2000. She volunteers on the Friends of the Library Board and participates in Young At Heart Readers Theater.