Wherefore art thou, voters?

Pic by Dinidu de Alwis / Perambara

Spoiling the vote

Quite a few people I’ve spoken to are spoiling their vote. This, to me, doesn’t really make sense. On the one hand, I can see how spoiling your vote is you showing your displeasure at all of the candidates, but that will probably have as much effect as sticking your tongue out at an election poster. I can also see how it could satisfy the smart ass in you to write a pithy comment or stinging quote on your ballot but really, who’s going to care? Voting in this election means making a tough, almost impossible, choice.

Though I know many who are staunch supporters of both candidates, I myself still haven’t made up my mind, and I know many who face the same dilemma. In the end the choice is between a rock and a hard place and it all comes down to who you think will screw us over less. Spoiling your vote however, seems pretty pointless to me. It may be idealistic and naïve to think that in our current political climate your vote will make any difference. Heck, even I don’t think it will. But it’s one of the basic rights that we still have, our ability to vote, to be a part of a democracy(?), and it is your duty to exercise it, to make your voice, as hushed as it may be, heard.

Wanting the vote

We recently visited the Northern displaced Muslim community in Puttalam. One of their most significant issues was the difficulties faced in registering to vote. Those born after 1990, which was the year of their displacement from the North, and those who reached the eligible voting age of 18 after 1990 are not registered for voting in their place of origin. We heard their stories of applying for registration numerous times only to be lost in the system. So what are the structures and systems set up for this type of issue to be dealt with before the election, to make sure all eligible citizens are able to exercise their right to vote?

Grassroots campaigns and youth involvement

I was in university in New York during Obama’s 2008 election campaign. We followed the election with a lot of interest because it was a pivotal event, a prospective regime change, if you will. And what was remarkable about his campaign was the grassroots involvement, the active participation of youth in registration drives, in rallies, in campaigning. We had students from the Democratic and Republican parties walking into lectures with registration forms, asking us to register to vote, and the youth responded in unprecedented numbers on election day. So where are our youth? Most people my age, and I may well be speaking for the Colombo-educated lot when I say this, but most of us are embarrassingly apathetic to what goes on in our own country. As long as we have food, clothes and coffeehouses readily available, we are more than happy to not concern ourselves with the fact that our tax money is being spent on posters and billboards and airlines.

Why vote?

Because you should, because you have a responsibility, and if you don’t, then please spare us your arm chair politics. If you don’t think your voice should count, then you might as well be silent.

Tehani Ariyaratne

Tehani is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders and has a degree in psychology. She repeatedly tries and fails to read our minds through psychoanalysis but to her credit, she is a very insightful and resourceful person. Her opinions are her own.

On a related note; Beyond Borders’ Peace and Governance initiative is set to tackle the problem of apathy and lack of awareness of governance in the spectrum of youth. Watch this blog for more on this soon…


Posted on 01/11/2010, in Peace-Conflict-Governance, Sri Lanka, Youth-Culture-Society. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. for the record sri lanka has very high voter turnouts compared to other countries , and voters did choose between different paths for country in past elections , so there is no need for the (?) after word ‘democracy’ .

  2. You have a degree and this is how you write a convincing argument ?

  3. @sittingnut Be that as it may, maybe my definition of democracy encompasses slightly more than a high voter turnout.

    @mahasen I apologize for putting my thoughts down on a blog post. I didn’t realize my degree was at stake. Maybe you would prefer I had my posts peer-reviewed before publishing?

  4. Perhaps not voting and not being active is a political stand in itself. Why endorse a broken system. Ever thought of that?

  5. @asanka a rather pointless and passive stand, since you’re part of the system in any case, imo.

  6. i made two points
    1 there are high voter turnouts here
    2 voters have in fact decided between different paths for country in past elections.
    both indicate we have more than a democracy with a question mark

    typical of the intellectually dishonest to be selectively blind.

    if you don’t see ppl including youth involved in this election you are living in a very narrow petty prejudiced social circle, a cocoon . get out more .

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