The Monday October 1st, edition of the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer carried a front-page article honoring Jannette Hanneman, a longtime election precinct worker and precinct chairwoman. Her nearly 50 years of service is certainly commendable. In view of such dedication to the electoral process, I found this statement attributed to Hanneman disturbing : “Id they don’t vote, they have no right to complain. If you don’t make an effort to be part of it, then be quiet.” The first part of the statement, usually stated in the singular, i.e., “If youdon’t vote….” is an old saw which I’ve heard repeated by public school teachers among others. It is also a falsehood which flies in the face of the very clear wording of the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
There you have, in one tidy sentence, the enumeration of five rights of human beings and a very important, restraint on government . Freedom of Speech, is not contingent on voting but exists regardless.
There are numerous reasons for people not exercising their right to vote. Some may be too lazy to get themselves to a polling place or to fill out an absentee ballot. Others may feel unqualified to participate because they have not studied the candidates or issues sufficiently to make a good decision. Similarly, they may be confused or uncertain, as in the case of candidates who are deceitful in the way they represent themselves or, in the case of ballot propositions, those which are worded deceitfully. E.g., to defeat Proposition X you must vote Yes. Some may choose not to participate as a matter of religious principle. Others may not vote because they regard the electoral process as a fraud or farce. For example, you may have noticed that the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly is composed of a majority who operate as political prostitutes rented by public employee unions and their allies. The minority in the Assembly, holding two or three seats, is allowed to exist and serves as cover for what amounts to a one-party dictatorship of the kleptocracy. It has been this way continuously from the time I arrived here in 1983.
Although we are urged to participate by speaking our view at an Assembly meeting, for example, the reality is that this same majority will flaunt its ability to ignore those expressing views contrary to their own. As a case in point, I attended a FNSB Assembly meeting on the wood smoke issue. Over a hundred-twenty people signed in to speak, the vast majority opposed to the proposed ordinance to regulate wood burning heaters. Knowing that “Citizen Comments” would run diametrically opposed to their own views (the Assembly majority’s), did the chair allow for 360+ minutes of testimony (i.e. 3 minutes times 120+ speakers)? Hell no. Only one-hour was allotted but it got worse than that. Part of the hour was devoted to what could be called “house-keeping” comments and then more time was taken to lecture those who came to testify on proper decorum. About six people were allowed to testify. During that twenty minutes or so Assemblymen searched the ceiling as if hoping to spot U.F.O’s, went on booger hunting safaris and made a point of checking their watches a lot.
As for the second part of Janette Hanneman’s statement, that non-voters need to stay silent she can rest assured that out local version of a form of government will be pleased to try and make us shut up, regardless of whether we vote or not. We’ll be heard by our representatives if we happen to agree with their views already. As a case in point, consider the FNSB attitude toward the tax cap, which needs to be reaffirmed every two years. Do the mayor, assembly and bureaucrats (in particular, department heads) strive to obey both the letter and spirit of the voter approved tax cap? Hell no! The object of Borough government is to circumvent the cap. Neglect building maintenance, hire more publicly employed self-servants and then go to the public wailing a bitter lament over leaking roofs. Next, float bonding measures to cover the cost of repairs . If enough “dumb effers” fall for this ploy, repayment of the bonds plus interest is tacked onto our property tax bills and, voila! the tax cap is decapitated.
Would you like to vote? Go ahead. Help yourself. You’ll have plenty of company which, depending on the locale, may include dead people, illegal aliens and felons who are prohibited from voting. Hope that your vote is not cancelled out by one of 243 ballots “discovered” in the back of a 1960 Nash Rambler station wagon that landed nose first at the foot of a tall cliff.
Even if you don’t vote, don’t be afraid to exercise your freedom of speech to either applaud or criticize the actions or ideas of those who rule over you. Totalitarians of every stripe invariably wish to curtail freedom of speech but that is not their prerogative. Your freedom of speech came from the one who created your tongue, lips and vocal cords.