Far away from the shores of American soil are hundreds of millions of people who desire the suffrage that is the right of every citizen of the United States 18 years of age and above. Though many of us who migrate to America come to enjoy the greater freedom and opportunities this nation offers, at the backs of many of our minds is the prize of suffrage, being able to one day exercise the right to vote someone into or out of office. It's a great feeling either way. And when that day finally comes, and we take the oath as new Americans, we begin to perch like birds of prey, just lurking for the next round of local or national elections.
Some so-called democracies around the world exist mostly in name. That's because many barriers to the ballot box make it impractical for their citizens to actually vote. I'm not relating some kind of abstract thought here. I used to live in one such democracy, where voting was a daring and dangerous thing to do.
Here are some of the ballot barriers that some of used to face. A large number of the citizens cannot read or write. Lack of roads or bad road conditions make it hard for people to travel to polling places. Minimal means of communication (radio and television) left most of the population in the dark about the politics that affected their lives. The stark division between "civilized" (city) people and "country" people all but leave the "country" (the majority of the population) out of the national discussion.
Even for those literate enough and interested enough to vote, it often takes courage to go vote on elections day. there may be partisan gangs (often soldiers and police officers) who intimate voters. Sometimes people are beaten or even killed. As if that were not more than enough, the party in charge or the party that controls the guns always has one last trick in the hat: rig the vote, burn ballot boxes, or simply ignore the results of the elections and claim victory or cling on to power. Or the ruling party's supporters may take to the streets, committing violent rampages that leave behind burned or broken buildings or blood trails.
Now, those are potential voters who have real reasons to stay away from polling stations on Elections Day. But you know what? Many of those people still dare to vote. They defy the odds, take the risk, and vote anyway. What appreciation for the right to vote!
What do you think? Share your comments.