We imagine that, during the coexistence of popular elections and the printing press, thousands upon thousands of editorials have been published lamenting a lack of participation in the democratic process, and urging people to exercise their right to vote. We won’t be making those arguments. We have a slightly different perspective.
There is probably a correlation between a person’s likelihood of voting and their feeling that in the grander context of life, their vote “matters.” High voter turnout may even be an indicator of the health of a country’s democracy. (Then again, near–100 percent voter turnout is a hallmark of dictatorships such as North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.)
For what it’s worth, the voter turnout in Cayman’s 2013 election — about 80 percent of registered voters, and perhaps 60 percent of voting-age Caymanians — is comparable to national election turnouts for first-world countries such as the United States, France, Germany and the U.K.
In other words, it’s unclear that “low voter participation” is a systemic problem in Cayman. What is clear, though, is that — notwithstanding all the “one man, one vote” rhetoric — not all votes are created equal. What we mean is, not everyone puts the same amount of research, reasoning and thought into their selection of candidates before Election Day.
While many people hold a glorified view of democracy in which every citizen should vote as a matter of principle, we are of the opinion that ignorant votes are worthless, even harmful. In addition to the civic duty of voting, we compound the civic duty of voting intelligently.
Now, we aren’t implying that greater consumption of information and deliberation over issues will magically generate consensus among the voting population — in fact, it may cement or even augment divisions. The state of human affairs is such that in regard to many (if not most) topics or candidates, there is potentially more than one rational and defensible position to be taken. The value of a vote is not what is marked on the ballot, but the thought process behind the ballot, that occurs within the mind of the voter. “Good citizenship” is a continual, ongoing responsibility, not an exercise that occurs one day every four years.
People who pay attention to what is happening in the country, who are acquainted with the candidates and well-informed on the issues — for example, regular readers of this newspaper — should be much less susceptible to being “bought off” by political favors, or to following the “herd mentality” fostered by the party system. More informed choices on Election Day should result in better, more-responsive government and, hopefully, greater prosperity for all.
Accordingly, we urge the 23,000 or so voting-age Caymanians — not simply to register to vote — but to ensure they are as educated as possible on the topics that matter to the country, to scrutinize the activities of the current government and the records of past ones, and to listen to the ideas being offered by potential candidates for next year’s election. Then, by all means, register to vote: And then vote, please.
But to those who don’t care to do their homework before casting their ballots, or who plan to auction off their vote to the highest bidder, the best thing they can do for Cayman’s democracy is to abstain from it.