alibi online
Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 V.19 No.39 | September 30 - October 6, 2010 

Election 2010

Why Bother?

The point of voting

How many elections have you participated in where your single vote decided the outcome? The answer is probably zero. Yet we have had a few ties here in New Mexico for local races in the past. Our state constitution requires that the outcome in such situations be decided by a game of chance.

To take one example, in 2008, Josie Richards and Michelle Dunlap, candidates for town trustee in Estancia had 81 votes each. They played a hand of five-card stud to settle the election. Richards won with a pair of nines to Dunlap’s ace high. I wished I’d been there for that one.

These cases are rare, of course. So why do we bother participating in elections at all?

In the early days of American democracy, the answer was easier. Candidates regularly handed out liquor and cash. In an 1890 New Hampshire Congressional race, citizens casting their ballots for a certain candidate were given a live pig.

If you want to vote in the upcoming general election—and I know you do—you need to register by Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Vote for Candidate X. Get a live pig. Simple.

The threat of violence was also once an effective tool for convincing people. Vote for Candidate X. Or get clubbed in the head. Equally simple.

The introduction of the secret ballot made these types of incentives much less effective. These days, we’re often left with vague arguments about voting as a civic duty. Such reasoning appeals to political dorks like me, but what about normal people? Why would they want to vote? Here are two good answers:

Voting for a winning candidate adds to that candidate’s legitimacy once she takes the reins of power. If only a small percentage of citizens show up at the polls, elected officials won’t have the mandate they need to lead effectively.

There's power in numbers. The act of voting is an expression of collective political power. By casting a vote, you're making a show of strength for your own political views, while at the same time undermining the kooky ideas of the opposition.

Seats up for grabs this year: governor, congressman, secretary of state, attorney general, sheriff, land commissioner and more. Read all about the candidates in the Alibi’s election guide, which hits the stands Thursday, Oct. 28.

Every vote helps strengthen our democracy to some small but significant degree because a functional republic requires active citizen participation. With that in mind, if you want to vote in the upcoming general election—and I know you do—you need to register by Tuesday, Oct. 5. For more details, read last week’s column. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2. You can find out more at the site for a nonpartisan voter protection program called Count Every Vote New Mexico. The program’s voter information number is (866) OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).

Steven Robert Allen is a former Alibi editor and the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico.

Today's Events

Animal Communication 101 at Starshine Gallery


Learn the basics of telepathic animal communication in this hands-on, experiential course. Reservation required.

Training for Action: If We Organize, We Win at South Valley Academy

Just Before Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth at Bachechi Open Space

More Recommended Events ››

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.