In Hebrew, the word for "spirit" is "ruach". It is defined as not only the Divine within each of us, but also as having spirit in the sense of "school spirit" or passion for a cause, a career choice, a love relationship, etc. It is in this vein that I move (gently) from the usual spiritual topic to the topic of American Politics, where, in this past election cycle, about 2/3rds of register voters seemed to lack "ruach".
If, in any U.S. public school, only 1/3rd of the student body did their homework, we would likely label it a "failing school".
If, in a large corporation, only 1/3rd of the staff came to staff meetings we would wonder about the company's ability to achieve.
If you or I worked only 1/3rd of the days we were scheduled to work, we would be "let go" from our jobs.
When only slightly over 1/3rd (36%) of the registered U.S. voters turn out to vote, is this a "failed state"? Have we, as a nation, lost the ability to achieve? To succeed? Are voters saying they wish to be "let go" from their citizenship responsibilities?
What can we do to increase voter turnout? I'm not advocating a "stick" approach: fines, additional taxes, or jail time. I'm wondering what "carrots" are out there that we could be offering. What would it take to get 95% voter turnout? To really have a democratic nation, in practice, not just in name?
I have been polling my friends. Here are some of the great ideas they have suggested:
- Make Election Day a national holiday... everyone would be off work and able to get to the polls.
- Have a longer voting period, allowing even the most difficult-to-work-around schedules to be navigated.
- Vote on-line! Not a clue how to make this technology happen, but it would certainly make voting easy (and a "no-brainer" for all the "tech-y" youth voters). On-line voting could be one of multiple voting options.
- Offer perks... just like on Public Television and Public Radio: tote bags, beverage cozies, theater tickets, whatever...
- Make voting tied into a lottery: "Pay to Play" by voting. We'd be busting down the polling station doors!
- Education! I recently saw an on-line video of college students who were clueless as to who won (or even who fought in) the Civil War. That, to me, is indicative of a failure to educate good citizens. How can we expect a Democracy to flourish without intelligent citizens voting their conscience?
I have been befuddled by this lack of ruach and responsibility in the American electorate. I was downtrodden by the thought that only 1/6th of the registered voters voted for the officials who "won". I want to see a positive change. How about you? Any ideas? If so, please send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's get a great list going and pass our ideas along to our elected officials. We are natural-born creatives and masters of our own lives. Let's use our creative thought process to answer this real-life dilemma.
This year at Thanksgiving, I give thanks for each one of you, for each of us and our creative problem-solving abilities! How about an idea-generating discussion with the family at the Thanksgiving table? Remember: in "brainstorming" ideas there are no "wrong" answers, as even odd ideas may generate a magnificent "aha!" in the mind of another.
Blessings to all, and to all a good vote!