Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In a Cynical Era, Many Still Cherish the Right to Vote

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In a Cynical Era, Many Still Cherish the Right to Vote

Article excerpt

On Tuesday, many people will forgo the privilege of voting. Too busy, they'll say, or one vote doesn't matter anyway.

One bumper sticker advises: "Don't vote - It only encourages them."

And yet, about 40 million people will take part in this ritual of democratic renewal, an act of faith in a decade said to be cynical and sour.

Chances are no one vote will make a decisive difference; few elections are decided by a single vote. But no one vote will weigh more than another. The vote of the plutocrat arriving at the polls in a chauffeur-driven limousine counts no more than his driver's.

For all the tawdriness of modern-day, low-calorie, soundbite campaigning, voting remains supreme, indispensable, individualistic - and idealistic. Even a ballot cast in doubt - "for the lesser of two evils," as people like to say - is a vote of confidence in democracy.

The vote tells the candidates what they sometimes forget to say, that the people's leaders are the people's servants, that they serve at the consent of the people.

At street corners across the country last week, AP reporters put the simplest of questions to ordinary people: Does your vote make a difference? Do you vote?

What they heard was the cacophony of democracy.

"If you don't vote, you don't have a chance," said John Ford, 45, a printer in Milwaukee. "If you have a vote, at least you have a chance of doing what you think is right. That's what they call the power of the people, isn't it?"

Jean Smith, mall walking with her husband in North Dallas, Texas, and Dave Letang, a salesman from Helena, Mont., both made the same point. "I like to vote so I can gripe," said Smith. Letang said, "You can't complain unless you vote, and I like to complain."

Vera Murphy, 22, a black college student in St. Louis, recalled the days when slaves could not vote - and when freed slaves were kept from voting. She said that in her heart she didn't think her vote mattered, "but the reason I vote is it used to be we didn't have the right to vote. I feel since my ancestors got killed to have this right, I'm going to vote whether it counts or not."

Joan Bush, 45, of Philadelphia, director of nursing for a home health care agency, pulled from memory a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. …

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