It’s been nearly 3,000 years since the Greeks started their experiment with democracy. It’s clear that other communities in other areas had been looking for ways to make decisions, but representative democracy, as it was established by the Romans, is the form of choice for all modern democracies. It took the Romans about 500 years to transition from a kingdom to a republic. This ceding of power—governance—to the people did not come easy, and people all over the globe today are still fighting for their right to vote.
Representative democracy differs from direct democracy. In a representative democracy, you mostly vote for people—i.e., representatives—who will then cast votes on your behalf for the policies and programs that shape your government. If we had a direct democracy, we’d be voting on the issues themselves, rather than the people who represent our interests. That’s why, in a representative democracy, it’s very important to vote for people you believe will work in your community’s best interest.
The US regards itself as a proud example of democracy, yet according to PewResearchCenter, the US voter-participation rates are lower than in most developed countries:
If a significant portion of citizens are not voting for their elected officials, is the country really even a democracy? It’s critical to the democratic process to have a strong participation in the voting process.
Citizens vote to shape their civic world. If you’re looking for more information on the importance of voting, the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center offers an excellent study guide on the right to vote.
Take a moment to educate yourself and inspire others about the election process. Big-ticket items, electing leaders of our countries, Parliaments and Congress—these are all important. But the people who make the day-to-day decisions about land use are the town and city councils, boards, and commissions. These down-ticket races declare the representatives who can accelerate green building policies; implement carbon-free installations and efficacies; create transportation systems that are alternatives to carbon-reliant, single-occupancy vehicles; and much more.
So take a look at who’s running locally, see what issues are on the ballot in your local area, register to vote, cast that ballot, and inspire Turn21–minded folks to do the same.
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 21
A Special Note to USA Voters
In the United States voter participation rates for youth, poor, and minority voters is historically lower than the turnout rates for wealthy voters. Considering this, is it any wonder that US laws favor the rich and powerful?
If you’re not pleased with the laws, policies, and enforcement you see in your community, then you should be part of the effort to get similar-minded people to vote. Voting and being involved in the election process is one of the most important ways effect change. The effort to get people to the vote is commonly called “Get Out The Vote.”
If you’re new to voting, you’ll need to first register to vote. Then, you can learn where your voting station is located, or you can choose to vote by mail. Become informed about the candidates and issues. Project Vote and Rock the Vote are two good sites to start your voting participation.