Loftus Durand
Loftus Durand

Voting is a fundamental Human Right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) Article 21 gives individuals that right. It says:

• Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

• Everyone has the right of equal access to public service of his country.

• 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 vote or equivalent free voting procedures

Voting is Essential in a Healthy Democracy

What is the meaning of democracy anyway? Well, the word comes from ancient Greece, with 'demos' meaning "the people" and "kratos" meaning "to rule". So, it literally means "Rule by the People". And so, voting is one of the fundamental processes of a democracy. It is the most important thing you can do to ensure a democratic government. It helps you to choose leaders who are best able to ensure the growth of all aspects of your country. Voting in a democracy gives the citizens the power to hold their elected officials accountable. That means you hold the power and responsibility to replace those representatives who did not live up to their promises to uphold the values and goals of your community. For these reasons, voting is mandatory in some countries like Australia.

Your Vote is your Voice

It is important to make your vote count. Voting is perhaps the only way that allows the ordinary person to participate in government. You need to make whoever is asking for your vote understand that they are expected to champion the issues facing you and your community. For example, would you say that the Kalinago Territory has the identical issues as that of Roseau North? First, the Kalinago Territory is a fishing and farming community with issues related to those areas in addition to Kalinago specific factors. Therefore, persons hoping to represent them should be fully committed to address those issues. This is quite different from someone who may want to represent Roseau North which is an urban community. Likewise, the needs of the elderly and the disabled constituents bear special attention. Anyone wishing to be a representative should consider the needs of that diverse block in their respective constituencies. Everyone cannot be in Parliament. Therefore, your representative is your voice in that body. They should reflect the values of you and your community.

Power to Invest in the Future

The youth vote 18-25 account for a large percentage of the voting population in Dominica. Yet it seems that their interest in democracy and the voting process is limited. Some of them say that they do not think their vote matters, especially, if they do not see their issues being addressed in the programmes in the country. Nevertheless, by voting, the youth could change the focus and direction of the country because they are such a large block. Accordingly, the youth should take this opportunity of voting to ensure that their issues are addressed in the programmatic execution of government functions. This group could significantly change the direction of government now and in the future.

#### Make Informed Choices

When you cast your vote, you are investing in the direction of your country for at least the next five years. However, some decisions could impact the country's direction for a generation or more. Voting should be an informed decision. It should be based on the goals you have for the future of yourself and your community and how likely the person standing in front of you will work to achieve these goals. So, you must be meticulous and strident in questioning the candidates, especially through town hall meetings. In addition, public debates between candidates of all parties are essential to enlighten voters on the candidates' positions. Presently, these exercises are nonexistent. Voters need to push for these fora in order to be better informed about the people being selected to represent their interest.

Finally, voting is the cornerstone of any democratic system. Many people around the world do not have this fundamental right. They don't have the opportunity to execute that right to freely choose a representative of their choice. Hence, they do not have a voice. In Dominica we have the right to vote, we have a chance to make our voices heard. Use your vote wisely. Don't squander it. Be an informed voter.