Anti-Poverty in MongoliaTo combat corruption, officials in Ulaanbaatar have given power to citizens in an app. The app is for citizens to vote on public amenities like security cameras or new park spaces. Since Mongolia has seen a rapid boom in its economy, it is still attempting to understand the best ways to engage the public in community efforts. The Mongolian government has decided to use budget participatory measures to help promote anti-poverty. Decentralization is a large focus on the participatory budget so that decisions do not only occur in urban areas. Mongolia has a poverty rate of 28.4%, so it is imperative to work towards decreasing this number.

Public Participation in Mongolia

In 2013, the Mongolian government created a new law titled The Integrated Budget Law. This is the first law in Mongolia that works toward Mongolian residents’ participation in the Local Development Fund. The fund emerged to offer monetary assistance in urban centers and the more rural areas. The fund immediately provided relief by placing 280 street lights in various cities between 2013 and 2015. Despite this, the needs of Mongolian residents vary depending on where they are located. Urban centers long for more street lights while rural areas need more welfare to provide support for stagnating jobs.

The Asia Foundation and Anti-poverty in Mongolia

To gain public participation, the government has partnered with the nonprofit The Asia Foundation and a government organization called The Swiss Agency for Development. The Asia Foundation created an app to vote on public projects in 2014 and working with the Ulaanbaanter Municipal, mapped out entire districts and important amenities in a website called manaikhoroo.

The Asia Foundation is concerned with rural areas receiving the important services they need like job training and loans. The urban centers still have a majority of representation in government, but the focus is turning more towards local khoroos to find what they need the most. The efforts going toward anti-poverty include attempting to give more power to local communities. Another program connected to the participatory budget, named the Urban Governance Project, is working towards giving all residents a scorecard to identify what things they need the most. The government is attempting to provide equal representation for all khorros. The Asia Foundation also worked with another NGO named the GER Community Mapping Center to focus on the subdivisions of Ulaanbaatar, called khoroos, to share the Local Development Fund equally in all areas.

Mongolia has Replicated Brazil’s Anti-poverty Measure

The idea behind participatory budgeting began as an anti-poverty measure in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The Brazilian Worker’s Party introduced the participatory budget as a way to counteract the dictatorship in 1989. The struggle with participatory budgets is keeping the people interested in taking part in determining the budget. As with Porte Alegre, participation has passed through waves of interest and disinterest. The Asia Development fund estimated from a survey of 33 khoroos, only 18% knew about the Local Development Fund.

The app works better in Ulaanbaatar because 90% of people have internet connection in the city. It is more difficult to inform the nomadic people living in Mongolia. Since 40% of the people live in Nomadic tribes, it is difficult for the government to work towards mapping entire areas. Along with this, 60% of the nomadic population has settled into shantytown Gers around the central city of Ulaanbaatar because of drastic weather changes making it difficult to wander as they used to.

How Mongolia Can Improve its Anti-poverty Measures

Through updating the mapping of the Gers and informing the public, the government can provide funding to the areas that need it most. A lot of work is necessary to implement the voting system to all areas in Mongolia, but so far, 800,000 people in Ulaanbaatar have voted using the app. Despite this only accounting for half of the population, 54% of women voted by the app. The Asian Development Bank is working towards providing community meetings to explain to residents how they can involve themselves with the Local Development Fund.

Participatory budget is useful in aiding anti-poverty measures and other cities are picking up on using the same principles as Mongolia. In 2015, Paris introduced a new participation method geared towards citizens suggesting ideas that generated benefits for residents in local communities. Paris government officials partook in a social media campaign and garnered more than one million views on an online platform discussing the most popular ideas. Paris government officials held discussions in community meetings and people could suggest ideas offline as well.

The Mongolia model towards participation budgeting is still new, but as the model gains traction through advocacy and mapping, the government officials in Ulaanbaatar hope to spread the participatory budget system to other places in Mongolia to let residents know that they care about how their money is spent.

– Sarah Litchney
Photo: Pixabay

Electronic Voting in Developing CountriesIn an increasingly digital world, reducing paper consumption and productions seems like a good option. However, cutting out paper is not always just an issue of sustainability. Electronic voting in developing countries is a means of preserving democracy.

Electronic voting (e-voting) in developing countries is quickly gaining traction to replace paper-based voting. The technology is flexible. Citizens are able to vote remotely via the internet or use a variety of electronic kiosks. Developing countries’ reasonings behind making this switch lie in various prevailing issues around the world. These include election corruption and ballot cheating, low voter turnout or political violence.

Many developing countries historically experience rigged or unsuccessful elections. However, electronic voting in developing countries may hold the key to not only average but high voting rates. If implemented efficiently, it could appeal to youth voters and encourage marginalized people to vote. In addition, it could allow voting in different languages with instant translation features (a major advantage in countries with multiple native languages). There has been much success in the endeavors of electronic voting in developing countries.

India

India boasts a population of over 1.3 billion. Despite this, the country’s transition to e-voting is often hailed as an example of successful political technology. Experimentally implemented in 1998, India’s e-voting has skyrocketed to success in recent years. India’s main motivation for pursuing e-voting stemmed from the recurring high costs of paper-based elections and to “strengthen the electoral process” in general. This optimistic goal proved largely successful.

According to a 2017 study by Brookings, “the introduction of EVMs [Electric Voting Machines] led to (i) a significant decline in electoral fraud, (ii) strengthening the weaker and vulnerable sections of the society and (iii) a more competitive electoral process.”

Three major issues in previous Indian elections prompted these necessary solutions. Citizens would stuff ballot boxes, which led to untraceable fraud. Women, disabled citizens and lower castes were discouraged to vote since their ballots would often be deliberately uncounted by human talliers. Finally, as a result of years of voting fraud, politicians did not have much competition because fraudulent elections created a monopoly around the majority candidate.

E-voting largely solved these issues. The machines only register five votes each minute to combat virtual ballot stuffing. Marginalized groups are encouraged to vote since their vote will not be counted by a biased and politically motivated person. More candidates have a better shot at being elected due to the higher representation of all voices.

Philippines

Electronic voting in developing countries, such as the Philippines, also serves as a model of success. After implementing e-voting through the British company Smartmatic, the country’s 2016 election brought 81% of the Philippines’ 100 million people to the polls in a record turnout. At the time, the election stood as “the largest electronic vote-counting project in history.”

Aside from the high turnout, the election also broke a record for the fastest voting count. The e-voting machines immediately tracked and published the results online as votes came in. The technology was also carefully surveilled preceding and during the election with the aid of more than 200,000 citizen volunteers to prevent crashes.

After the election, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica lauded the victory, calling it “a landmark in electoral automation with the largest ever manufacture and deployment of Vote Counting Machines making this a truly historic moment.”

While the Vote Counting Machines experienced widespread technical difficulties in the country’s 2019 midterm election, Filipinos are working to get their machines up and running in order to produce another smooth election like in 2016.

Nigeria

Nigeria looked to implement e-voting in the 1990s due to concerns that plague many African nations. It is among many countries in the continent that consistently report election violence, ballot stuffing, government-manipulated results and voter suppression as pressing issues in elections.

Nigeria formed the Independent National Electoral Commission to integrate Electronic Voting Systems into their elections. The group plotted out polling locations across the country. They used a Geographic Information System technology to map out the country’s population density to more accurately monitor the votes coming in from all areas.

While e-voting is still in its infancy in Nigeria, “it has been considered a necessity and as the only solution for credible elections.” The initial instating of e-voting proved largely unsuccessful in Nigeria. However, technology is seen as a promising means to curb the overflow of political violence and issues rampant in the country’s elections in the future.

Problems with and the Future of Electronic Voting in Developing Countries

While electronic voting in developing countries has promoted healthy, democratic elections in many instances, it is not without its problems. Technology, especially the type being sent to developing countries, has an easy tendency to glitch and lend itself to user errors for those unfamiliar with the technology.

Furthermore, many countries have used e-voting to combat top-down corruption. However, the technology would still be under the jurisdiction of the government. Therefore, it carries the potential to be just as rigged and produce more fraudulent, difficult-to-trace results. E-voting also makes recounting virtually impossible due to the lack of a paper trail.

However, many developing countries have nonetheless used this technology to their advantage. They are in the process of making e-voting a dependable reality. Namibia, Ghana and Khazakstan are in the early stages of e-voting and hoping to solely run elections with e-voting soon. With the aid of continuing technological advancement, e-voting can hopefully plant a successful footing in developing countries.

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

 

Mobilizing Congress Matters In today’s society, most people think it won’t make a difference when they are asked to vote or contact Congress. However, this is not the case. Congress is “the People’s Branch,” meaning that Congress is supposed to be representative of the people. Every single member of Congress is elected into office by their constituents; therefore, they can be elected out as well. So, they pay close attention to the demands of their citizens. They make frequent trips back home to stay in touch with their constituents. The staff of these representatives dedicates a lot of time to reviewing mail from citizens. Members of Congress keep in touch with local officials and attend meetings with their constituents. The nature of this job ensures that mobilizing Congress matters because a congressperson’s position is entirely dependent on the will of the people.

The Misconception

Recent data indicates that the reason the majority of people don’t vote is that they either don’t care or don’t think their vote matters. In fact, a 2008 survey showed that 13.4 percent of people were not interested in voting. Socioeconomic status and cultural norms have proven to affect whether people believe mobilizing Congress matters. Some are taught that it is expected that they vote in order to make a difference in the country. Other people, however, believe that “politics is a kind of abstract, dirty business. So, a lot of people come to adulthood with a different understanding of their place in the political system.”

Inequalities reinforce themselves throughout every aspect of life. If someone is from a highly affluent community, they are likely to associate with people who believe in voting. This may inspire them to go out and vote. Whereas, those in poorer communities are more apt to believe that their voice doesn’t matter. This creates a pattern in these communities. Members from wealthier communities continue to show up to elections, but members from poorer communities are underrepresented. Conversely, residents from affluent areas see their preferences being represented. However, preferences from struggling areas continue to go ignored.

Past Mobilization Victories

Mobilizing Congress matters, and the historical record shows it. The following are two examples of global poverty reduction movements that succeeded thanks to U.S. citizens rallying together to enforce change.

  • The Global Security Food Act was signed into law by President Obama on July 20, 2016. The law works to make getting food to the world’s poor as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible. The Global Security Food Act faced an uphill battle. However, it was the power of mobilization that turned this bill into law. Thousands of people wrote letters to their congressional officials in support of the bill. More than 270,000 people showed up to the Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day Event. In June 2015, 86,000 citizens signed a petition, and more than 34,000 people called their representatives in support of the bill. These voices were heard. The House of Representatives passed the bill in a majority of 369 to 53.
  • The Water for the World Act was signed into law by President Obama on December 19, 2014. This law seeks to address the issue of 2.5 million people who do not have access to toilets and more than 750 million people who do not have clean drinking water. The mobilization of Congress played a key role in this act’s passage. Organizations like WaterAid worked tirelessly alongside non-profit and faith-based organizations to get people to lobby Congress. Congress recognized the efforts of these groups and individuals, which culminated in its unanimous passage in both houses of Congress.

Congress Wants to Hear from its Citizens

Politicians have always been aware of the power a constituent’s voice holds. One of America’s first Congressmen, Thomas Jefferson, held that “the functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents.” Jefferson believed that the government functioned only by the will of the people.

Furthermore, it is Congress’ job to represent its citizens. Therefore, congressmen need to hear from their constituents to make their preferences known. The conversations congressmen have with their people guide policymaking. Members of Congress also look at letters and e-mails that have personal touches to see what issues citizens are passionate about. Members of Congress want to stay in touch with their people and they are willing to use modern technological innovations to do it.

Mobilizing Congress matters! Congress says it, the historical record indicates it and Congress’ job description requires it. However, it is up to the people of the U.S. to take advantage of it.

Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Wikimedia

Presidential Candidates' Views on Poverty
The globe pays attention to the U.S. presidential elections. As one of the largest national powers in the world, many take an interest in who will potentially be leading the country and are eager to hear the presidential candidates’ stance on various issues. From the health care system to budget spending, each candidate, regardless of party affiliations, has their own perspective on what those issues actually are and what the best way to approach them is. This article will focus on how important the presidential candidates’ views on poverty are to them and the American people.

2020 Presidential Candidates’ Views on Poverty

For a long time, global poverty was a backseat issue. Rarely did it ever take the spotlight at debates, campaigns or rallies, and never has it been the question of the hour. In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, polls showed issues that voters cared about the most, with the top five comprising of the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, health care and gun control. Neither domestic or global poverty even made it into the top 15.

Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence showing that poverty can heavily affect all of the top five most important issues mentioned, giving attention to the presidential candidates’ views on poverty has never been a topic of debate. Campaigns often overlook this point.

The fault is not all in the candidates, however. Polls between the years of 2007 and 2015 found that only a little over half of the Americans surveyed thought that looking at issues regarding the poor and those in need was important. When candidates are relying on the people to propel their campaigns, it is no surprise that they should cater to the more glamorous topics and points of interest.

The Beginning of Change

At a recent forum held in Washington, D.C., eight of the nine notable candidates in attendance, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Bernie Sanders, confirmed that they would be open to speaking about their intended policies in regard to global poverty. This would happen in a televised debate during their run for the 2020 presidential elections.

The Poor People’s Campaign, an institution dedicated to eradicating poverty, racism and war economy, sponsored the recent forum. Co-chairs of the organization, Dr. William Barber II and Dr. Liz Theoharis, spoke about why a dedicated discussion specifically focusing on the presidential candidates’ views on poverty is so necessary, saying, “We are here because, in 2016, we went through the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history without a serious discussion or debate about systemic racism or poverty.”

Looking Forward

As the 2020 presidential election approaches and the debates begin, there is no doubt that the usual topics of interest will be at the forefront of every discussion. With the signs of change occurring, however, there is hope that poverty and its accompanying solutions will take the stage as well. Giving a voice to poverty and the people who suffer from it is the first step, and ultimately will lead to the overall improvement and acceleration of people everywhere.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Pixabay

How to Make Your Vote CountThe American voting process excites many citizens, giving them a chance to express control over their representation and the issues in their district or state.

But the process can also be incredibly confusing and complex, making the task of voting tedious. Not everyone can get to a polling station on election day, so here are some guidelines on how to make your vote count.

Vote Correctly

To make the voting process as efficient as possible, it is important to know the date of the election and who is nominated. This includes primary elections and general elections. Primary elections usually occur a few months before the general elections and allow voters to pick the representatives of their particular party.

The voters should come prepared for both elections with the proper identification, depending on their state. If somebody is unregistered, the registration can be done on the day of the election or right now. It is possible to register for early and absentee ballots at this page or find the nearest polling place at this site. The Huffington Post has a super helpful guide on how to vote in every state.

Too Young to Vote?

It’s never too early to get involved in politics. For those who aren’t 18 yet, there is an option to work at a poll station on election day, talk to family and friends, donate time and money, contact the representatives and attend protest and rallies for causes of interest, like thousands of kids did in the March for Our Lives. Some states allow young people to pre-register to vote at 16, or vote if the person is on the cusp of 18. For a guide to this, there is always this state-by-state guide.

Do the Research!

Before filling out the ballot, the voter should make sure to have all the information on the candidates. The decisions should be based on the values held and the voter should choose the candidate that represents his or her beliefs in the best way possible.

Looking at multiple sources is key for a holistic understanding of who the person is voting for. Check out the current news and unbiased reports about the candidate in addition to the official campaign platform. Even in non-election years, practice media literacy and keep up on the news. By staying up to date on the representatives the person can determine what the conversation will be at election time.

Contact the Representatives

After the election, it is possible to still make your vote count by contacting the representatives at a local, state and national level. These people want to have the support of the voters behind them, and by expressing their opinion, the voters make sure that the things they voted for are represented. This can also help the voter to advocate in non-election years. Emailing and calling Congress is incredibly easy with helpful tools like those provided by The Borgen Project. To find out who the representatives check out this site.

Get Involved and Make Your Vote Count

Politics start at a local level. Whether working for a campaign or just addressing an important issue in an election, the person can leverage its vote and voice to help others. From canvassing to attending town halls and asking questions, there are thousands of ways to get involved in both partisan and nonpartisan ways.

Additionally, the voter should be aware of local election processes and demand clean elections that truly protect and make your vote count.

Elections are held across the United States every year and serve as a hallmark of the American experience. The right to vote has been fought for by countless groups and is treasured by many.

With votes, individuals can create change and express their opinion. Today’s enhanced communication creates thousands of ways to get people involved and to make your vote count.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

5 Areas Developing Countries Lead the World
Upon initial inspection, developing countries face many obvious challenges, some of which obscure the progress being made. The realities of poverty can sometimes force this progress; after all, from the bottom, there’s only one way to go: up. Developing countries lead the world now in ways unforeseen perhaps a decade ago, and in some ways have even distinguished themselves on the global stage. Five areas serve to highlight where these countries are outperforming the developed world.

5 Areas in Which Developing Countries Lead the World

  1. Renewable and Sustainable Energy
    On the rocky fringes of a global landscape, developing countries lead the world down some of the most implausible of paths. One such pathway grows greener than others. According to World Bank, an international financial institution that finances capital projects in countries throughout the world, Mexico, China, India and Brazil are among the leaders in sustainable energy policies.In Scoring 111 countries on policies that support energy access, World Bank analytics called Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) took into account each country’s energy access, efficiency, and policies. Vietnam, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania also received praise for their efforts.Perhaps one reason for this trend could be the falling costs of solar energy, allowing for developing countries to reach their most isolated residents. Whatever the reason, developing economies invested in renewable energy to the tune of $177 billion in 2017. That’s a 20 percent leap in one year.
  2. Election Technology
    In places like Nigeria, electronic voter identification takes precedence over traditional work, while elsewhere, in developed countries like the U.K., the digital jump still hasn’t been made.While the electronic “fixing” of an election may be possible, the likelihood of it working in a persuasive manner depends largely on the closeness of an election. And while elections in places like Kenya meet opposition and challenge, Africa still finds itself ahead in the popular vote, so to speak, when it comes to digital voting technology.
  1. Mobile Money
    Developing countries lead the way in the implementation and use of mobile money technologies as well. Remarkably, Kenya has hit the decade mark with its M-Pesa mobile money service, but it is not alone in this growing trend among developing nations.In a 2017 report by Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA), an organization that represents the interests of mobile operators the world over, 277 million registered mobile money accounts dotted sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2016. These services generated $110 billion of economic value and helped to support more than three million jobs.
  2. e-Commerce and Trade
    Commercial transactions conducted electronically online, referred to as e-commerce, might often be associated with advanced economies. However, developing countries also lead the way in this area, in nations like Columbia, Argentina and Nigeria.In fact, in Latin America alone, e-commerce is expected to see growth of nearly 20 percent over the next five years. What does this mean for a developing economy? It means growth opportunities and greater integration within the world’s markets.In terms of countries opening themselves up to trade, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines take center stage. According to the World Economic Forum, an organization that engages world leaders to shape agendas, these countries have now displaced the traditional powerhouses.
  3. Positivity
    A recent poll by Gallup International, a leader in economic and market research, shows that the external powers of money may not necessarily translate to intrinsic happiness. The poll found that optimism came from places like Nigeria, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.When asked questions about prospects for the future or personal happiness, confidence abounded in places like Mexico, despite grim financial outlooks for the country. Maybe money can’t buy happiness.

Despite lingering stereotypes and growing pessimism in our world, developing countries lead the world in several different areas, and while the change in perception may be gradual, reality dictates a much quicker realization: developing countries make strides every day, and in some cases, set the standard.

– Daniel Staesser
Photo: Flickr

Women in Saudi Arabia
Although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known for human rights violations and women’s oppression, the Saudi government has made several changes in the past few years to change its reputation. These changes include giving women in Saudi Arabia the right to drive, vote and start their own business.

Saudi Arabia ranked 138 out of 144 on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. Although this is a very low ranking, the report also acknowledges significant progress made over the past several years that is slowly moving the country toward gender equality. There is still room for improvement when it comes to the women’s dress code, male guardianship and sex segregation.

Women’s empowerment can help fight poverty when women become self-sufficient and turn into active contributors to the economy. Several steps have been taken by the government in order to increase the role of women in Saudi Arabia.

Women in Saudi Arabia in the Workplace

In 2011, King Abdullah announced the decision to allow women in Saudi Arabia to work in the retail sector in lingerie stores. This made many women financially independent and gave them the opportunity to participate in the economy. In the past few years, it has become more common for women to work in retail and hold other public jobs.

In 2018, several positions even opened for women to work at the country’s airports. According to a report released by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development in 2017, Saudi Arabia had a 130 percent increase in the number of Saudi women in the workplace. Additionally, women can now start their own businesses without permission from their male guardians.

Saudi Women in Government

In the past few years, steps have been taken to allow women in Saudi Arabia to be represented in government and even make several government jobs available to them. In 2011, women gained the right to vote under King Abdullah. Since elections do not happen often in Saudi Arabia, the first time they were able to exercise this right to vote was in 2015.

Additionally, women were also appointed to 30 seats of the Shura Council, a legislative advisory body, making up 20 percent of the council. In 2018, women also began working as investigators in the public prosecutor’s office for the first time.

Women’s Social Integration

In 2017, King Salman ordered that women be allowed access to government services such as education and healthcare without the need of consent from her guardian. However, the guardianship system still remains.

Most recently, in September of 2017, King Salman announced that women in Saudi Arabia would be able to drive starting in June 2018. Before this, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world restricting female driving. The change was a result of international pressure and many Saudi women’s efforts advocating for the right to drive. This is a huge step forward as women will now have the freedom to take their kids to school, drive themselves to work and transport themselves as they wish without the need of a man.

Saudi Women in the Military

Saudi Arabia opened up noncombat military jobs in Riyadh, Mecca, al-Qassim and Medina to women in February 2018. These jobs will allow women to work in security. There are several requirements to apply for these positions including Saudi citizenship and holding a high school diploma, but it is a major change to allow women to form part of the Saudi military for the first time in history.

Although change is slow, it is clear through recent government reforms that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is heading in the right direction when it comes to women’s rights.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

Why Is It Important to VoteWhy is it important to vote? Because voting sends a message to politicians that the changes they are making and the laws they are passing have the approval of the people.

Lyndon B. Johnson stated, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” This truism is important for anti-poverty activists to remember as they enter their polling places.

The Power of One

It is important to vote because many candidates for political offices are voted in by only one or two votes. The same goes for important issues that are passed into law. The people who are most likely to be affected by changes in legislation or political power, such as the poor, minorities and the disenfranchised, are the least likely to vote.

The supreme court has taken steps to ensure that voter ID laws do not institutionally discriminate against groups of people. The right to vote is not dependent on whether the voter is more or less likely to be impacted by the results. Theodore Roosevelt said, “A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends on the character of the user,” because each vote that is cast is important and has an impact on the political climate of America.

John Quincy Adams sums up the reason why anti-poverty activists and other people wishing to make lasting changes for the better need to go out and vote when he said: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

A Tool for Change

So why is it important to vote? Voting is a powerful tool that can be used to make positive changes to social policy.

While marches and rallies are an important way to help inform people about various social issues, voting is a more powerful and useful tool for change. Morgan Carroll in “Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Your Government Work For You” eloquently expresses the power of a vote when she says: “When there’s a vacuum of public input, lobbyists usually fill it. But when there’s public input, the people usually win.”

Voting is one of the most effective ways to make lasting and beneficial changes to social policy. While marches and rallies tend to raise awareness about social issues that need to be addressed by the government, voting tells the government that awareness about the issue is no longer sufficient and that direct action to correct the issue is being demanded.

Why Is It Important to Vote?

It is crucial for anti-poverty activists and others who want to make lasting and beneficial changes to social policy to get out and vote. Franklin D. Roosevelt expresses the power of voting and the answer to the question “why is it important to vote?” when he said: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr

How to Register to VoteVoting gives citizens of the United States the power to implement change in the country and to voice opinions on some of the greatest choices the country makes. Voting on both local issues closer to home, and also on a more national level, are both important to be involved in the crucial decisions that make the community and country run the proper way. By voting one can contribute in deciding who represents the local area in government and the country as a whole. By registering to vote, and leaving the ballot empty it can make a statement that one does not agree with any of the political party options, and still be considered a part of the count and reported. Therefore, it is important to know how to register to vote.

Steps and General Instructions

The first step in how to register to vote is to check the deadline for registrations for the particular state for either mail registration or registration online. The deadline for voting by mail is typically judged by the date it was brought to the post office.

The next step in registering to vote is to check eligibility. In the United States, for instance, there is a list of guidelines that apply to those who wish to vote. The voter must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 years old by the election day (however, you are able to register early depending on the state law), have lived in a state for 30 days prior to voting, and meet the state criminal record requirements.

Registering to vote can be done online by searching your state’s registration website. The registration requires a valid driver’s license or ID card or the last four digits of one’s social security number. It can also be done in person, by finding the state’s location for registration which is typically at a department of motor vehicles, State assistance office, or a local library. If one wishes to register to vote by mail, use the application form to register and research the specific state instructions for the mailing address, and mail the application, or deliver it to the local election office.

How to register to vote if you are out of state? There is a Federal Postcard Application to vote absentee. By filling out the form, one can request an absentee ballot, fill out the necessary information and mail it back to the return address.

Register Today!

Registering to vote is a simple process as the country wants people to vote. By registering to vote, citizens can have a say in the country’s most important decisions. If you haven’t already, get registered!

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Important to Vote
Exercising one’s right to vote is about as American as one can get. The U.S. is a country that was founded with the intention of providing freedom and allowing one’s opinions to shape policy. As it follows, it is important to vote. However, the Pew Research Center found that compared to other democratic countries, the U.S. pales in comparison regarding voter turnout.

In fact, after the 2012 election, the U.S. had the ninth lowest voting rate out of 35 other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The country with the highest voter turnout rate was Belgium during its 2014 election, with over 89 percent of their registered voters exercising their democratic right. In comparison, less than 54 percent of registered voters in the U.S. voted in the 2012 election.

There is a myth in the U.S. that one’s vote does not matter. While it is the Electoral College that ultimately determines the outcome of the election, the vote of the public is still crucial. The popular vote often influences the electoral vote. Though the popular vote does not directly determine the presidential outcome, it does dictate which of the elected officials in each state get to vote in the Electoral College.

The popular vote can also help determine policy long after the election is over, especially if the winning candidate’s margin of victory is low or high. If the former, the candidate will likely push for more moderate policy and if the latter, the candidate will listen to the majority. Thus, if more people vote, the more representative the democracy will likely become.

It is important to vote not only because it helps determine the political outcome, but because it is a right that was fought for by a majority of people in the U.S. and is still being fought for in other democratic countries around the world.

When the U.S. was founded, only white men of a certain faith who owned property could vote. In 1870, the right was extended to former slaves. In 1920, the women’s suffrage movement prevailed.

It was not until 1965 that discriminatory voting practices of any kind were outlawed on a federal level with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, many voters still experience prejudice at the polls.

Women in Saudi Arabia just recently gained the right to vote in 2011. Currently, the only democratic country that does not allow women to vote is Vatican City. Not even all men can vote — only cardinals can vote in Vatican City. This is because only cardinals can vote for the Pope, who presides over the country, and as of now, only men can become cardinals.

The suffrage of citizens is a key component of political efficacy. When one has the ability to vote, they feel that they are involved in their government and can potentially create change.

Extending the right to vote to all citizens not only creates a more representative democracy but also creates a sense of community because everyone’s voice is heard — not just those in power.

Laura Cassin

Photo: Flickr