A monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.
In a few short weeks, on 8 May 2019, South Africans will be heading to the polls for this country’s sixth democratic election since 1994 (pending judgment in the recent case regarding the rights of independent candidates to stand for election, which threatens to postpone the elections to a later date).
Recently, my 11–ear old son raised the topic of the upcoming election in a conversation. He asked whether I would be voting, and if so, for whom and then, of course, why?. He says he is keen to vote but perhaps in reality he is more excited about being old enough to vote (that is, being 18), than voting itself; either way our conversation reignited another, inner conversation that I have never quite finished with myself. You see, over the years I have run the gamut of “yes”, I must vote to “no”, I don’t think it matters … and I am probably not the only one.
The Word of God says that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. In other words, such a man is conflicted — restless and confused in his thoughts, his actions and his behaviour. Interestingly, faith, by definition, is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. So how can I be both double minded and in faith regarding the outcome of the election (or anything, really)? Clearly, I needed to give more thought to the matter.
In particular, I found Gary McGraw’s November 2018 article on why we should vote, helpful. While he writes from an American perspective, his sentiments hold true in our context as well. If you are sitting on the fence, undecided as to whether you should vote or questioning the value of your vote, then the 7 simple reasons he puts forward may help you too:
- Democracy breaks if no one votes
Where no one votes, democracy by definition, cannot exist. This then is a dictatorship. Our system may not be perfect, but it is still a democracy.
- Voting reflects independent thinking
Do we forfeit our right to complain about government if we neglect to vote? Abraham Lincoln said it this way: “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters”. It is the responsibility of each one of us to do our homework, and then act on that information in our own best interests rather than abdicate that responsibility to someone else. It may be argued that voting is no different.
- Voting is the great equaliser
In South Africa, all citizens 18 years and older are eligible to vote. It matters not how clever you are, how much you earn or what your political beliefs are; all (eligible) citizens have an equal say.
- Voting is how we take part in something bigger than ourselves
This is my personal favourite. If we don’t vote, are we perhaps not only letting ourselves down but also the wider community and ultimately, our nation as well? Something to think about.
- Elected officials take notice of people who vote
If we don’t vote we don’t have a (political) voice. It’s that simple.
- Refusing to vote is not rebellion; it is surrender
Our history reflects the struggle that was waged for the right to vote for the vast majority in our country, the blood that was shed and the lives that were lost in the process. If we choose not to vote aren’t we then by default also surrendering ourselves to others’ (potentially bad often contradictory) ideas?
- Voting really does matter
Elections have consequences and therefore voting does matter. Voting is how we preserve democracy and give expression to an active, thriving citizenry, which in turn keeps elected officials accountable.
It is clear therefore that while the decision to vote or not is a highly personal choice, it is also one that carries significant public consequence. May we who can choose, choose well.