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Voting, Your Right, Your Responsibility
The term “democracy” was first used in ancient Greece tomean a government where people could share in theactivities of the state, as opposed to governments controlledby an individual, a class or a group.Today the term has evolved to mean the idea that thegoverned have the right and the capacity, either directly or bychoosing representatives, to control their institutions for theirown purposes. Great value is placed on individual equalityand freedom for citizens from restraints except those whichadhere to the principle of equality and are imposed solely bythe consent of the majority.
EVEN IN THE 21ST CENTURY, FEWER THAN HALF THE WORLD’S COUNTRIES ARE TOTALLY FREE!* 28% 48 countries Totally Free 45% 85 countries Partly Free 41% 60 countries Not Free
ONLY 60% OF THE WORLD’S COUNTRIES HAVE ELECTORAL DEMOCRACIES 60% 117 Electoral 40% 78 COUNTRIES Democracies COUNTRIES Not Electorial Democracies
TODAY MORE THAN TWO BILLION OF THE WORLD’S SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE LIVE UNDER OPPRESSIVE RULE.“We’ve been through a multiyear period in which the world’s authoritariansseemed to be on the march and the democracies appeared to be in retreat,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “But the past year’strends (the political uprisings that have swept the Arab world over the pastyear) give reason for hope—especially because they arose in a region of the world where many observers dismissed the idea of democratic change as futile. We are at a historic moment, and it is imperative that the United States be fully involved in the difficult process of democracy building that lies ahead.”* * www.freedomhouse.org Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s flagship publication, is the standard-setting comparative assessment of global political rights and civil liberties. Published annually since 1972, the survey ratings and narrative reports on 195 countries and 14 related and disputed territories are used by policymakers, the media, international corporations, civic activists, and human rights defenders to monitor trends in democracy and track improvements and setbacks in freedom worldwide. The Freedom in the World data and reports are available in their entirety on the Freedom House website.
MANY THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE DIED AND MANY AREDYING, EVEN TODAY, FOR THE FREEDOM FOR THEMSELVES OR FOR OTHERS TO PARTICIPATE IN THEIR GOVERNMENT. IT IS EASY TO TAKE THE RIGHT TO VOTE FOR GRANTED, TOBECOME TOO BUSY OR TOO UNINTERESTED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ELECTION OF OUR COUNTRY’S LEADERS.
NO MATTER HOW ONE VOTESOR HOW CLOSE THE ELECTION, ONE VOTE DOES COUNT!EVERY VOTER WHO OF THEPOPULATION THAT ACTUALLY ELECTS A NATION’S LEADERS, MAKING THEVOICE OF THOSEIN THE PAST THREE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ONLY ABOUT THE ELIGIBLEVOTERS ACTUALLY VOTED FOR OUR NATION’S PRESIDENT. AN EVEN SMALLERPERCENTAGE HAVE VOTED IN THE MID-TERM ELECTIONS WHEN STATE ANDFEDERAL LEGISLATORS ARE CHOSEN. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WE COULD LOSE IT?COULD THE PEOPLE OF OUR COUNTRY BECOME A PARTOF THE WORLD’S OPPRESSED POPULATION?
BUT HAVING THE RIGHT TO VOTE COMES WITH A BIG RESPONSIBILITY! THAT RESPONSIBILITY IS WISELYDECIDING HOW TO CAST ONE’S VOTE.
A VOTER’S RESPONSIBILITY IS TO CAST A WISE VOTE!• IN ORDER FOR THEIR VOTE TO INSURE THE PRESERVATION OF DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM, VOTERS HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES ABOUT DEMOCRACY AND TO EXAMINE THE CANDIDATES AND THE ISSUES CAREFULLY.• IN TODAY’S INFORMATION AGE, THIS IS VERY EASY TO DO. BUT IT REQUIRES THE KNOWLEDGE OF HOW TO FIND THE INFORMATION AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF HOW TO EVALUATE THE INFORMATION FOUND. Do Not Take Democracy and Your Right to Participate In It for Granted! All Citizens Have A Responsibility to Protect It!
THERE ARE MANY SOURCES OF INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO VOTERS. POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ADS POLITICAL PARTY PLATFORMSNEWS MEDIA (NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES,JOURNALS, WEBSITES) SOCIAL MEDIA (FACEBOOK, TWITTER) FRIENDS, CO-WORKERS & FAMILY THE INTERNET LOCAL LIBRARY OTHERSHOW CAN ONE KNOW WHICH TO BELIEVE? CONSIDER THE BIAS OF THE SOURCE. “BIAS” IS A PARTICULAR TENDENCY OR INCLINATION, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT PREVENTS UNPREJUDICED CONSIDERATION OF A QUESTION. BIAS CAUSES INTENTIONAL OR UNINTENTIONAL FOCUSING ON INFORMATION FAVORABLE TO ONE’S PERSPECTIVE AND OMITTING THAT WHICH IS UNFAVORABLE. WHICH OF THESE MIGHT BE BIASED? WHICH HAVESOMETHING TO GAIN OR LOSE BY YOUR BELIEVING THE INFORMATION?WHICH HAS ACCESS TO INFORMATION THAT MIGHT BE MORE RELIABLE .
USE MULTIPLE SOURCES FOR YOUR INFORMATION AND CHOOSE THOSE SOURCES WELL.• POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ADS LISTEN TO BOTH SIDES, INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS AND CLAIMS FOR YOURSELF• POLITICAL PARTY PLATFORMS READ FOR ALL PARTIES• NEWS MEDIA SUCH AS NEWSPAPERS, NEWS MAGAZINES AND JOURNALS, NEWS WEBSITES USE SEVERAL DIFFERENT ONES• SOCIAL MEDIA CONSIDER WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THE PERSON POSTING, THEIR BIAS, WHERE THEY GOT THE INFORMATION• FRIENDS, CO-WORKERS & FAMILY WHAT ARE THEIR QUALIFICATIONS, HOW DID THEY GET THEIR INFORMATION• THE INTERNET CHECK MULTIPLE SITES PRIMARILY NONPARTISAN• LOCAL LIBRARY BOTH WEBSITE AND PHYSICAL LOCATION• OTHER SUCH AS A CANDIDATE’S HISTORY PREVIOUS VOTING RECORDS, JOBS, ETC. BUT MAKE SURE TO GET THE FACTS
JUDGING THE RELIABILITY OF A SOURCE OF INFORMATION CONSIDER WHETHER THE SOURCE HAS ANYTHING TO GAIN OR LOSE? (THE SOURCE OF FUNDING, FOUND USUALLY UNDER“ABOUT US” ON A WEBSITE, IS IMPORTANT IN DETERMINING THIS.) Political campaign ads, for example, are paid for by the candidate and thus will probably give only information favorable to the candidate and probably not give all the facts regarding any claim or allegation. Check out the real facts (more about that later). Social media such as Facebook friends and blogs are often biased. It is usually easy to tell they are promoting one candidate or another . Look for things such as all favorable comments for one candidate and all unfavorable comments for others. The old saying that “no one is all bad or all good” really is true. Only by knowing the facts on both sides of an issue can one make an informed decision about any issue. LOOK AT THE PAST. DOES THE SOURCE HAVE A HISTORY OF FAVORING ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER?
GENERALLY TRUSTED SOURCESOF INFORMATION MAY CONTAIN INACCURACIES Newspapers News Magazines Television News Programs TO TELL IF THEIR INFO IS RELIABLE: • Determine whether the information is fact or opinion. Check the facts for accuracy. Understand that opinions are only one person’s ideas and may or may not be true. • Look for obvious bias as discussed earlier. • Get your information from multiple sources. Before you believe it, see what other sources say. • Learn about news media using sites such as the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. at journalism.org.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION THAT ARE USUALLY THE MOST RELIABLE AND ACCURATE• PEER-REVIEWED SCHOLARLY PUBLICATIONS• EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS’ PUBLICATIONS• PROJECT VOTE SMART• OTHER NON-PARTISAN, NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS FUNDED ENTIRELY BY INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND PHILANTHROPIC FOUNDATIONS• C-SPAN, C-SPAN 1, C-SPAN 2 AND C-SPAN RADIO
PEER-REVIEWED SCHOLARLY PUBLICATIONS WHEN AN ARTICLE IS SUBMITTED TO A JOURNAL, IT IS FOR QUALITY OF SCHOLARSHIP, RELEVANCE, APPROPRIATENESS FOR THE JOURNAL, ETC. PUBLICATIONS THAT DONT USE PEER REVIEW RELY FOR ACCURACY ON THE JUDGMENTS OF THEIR EDITORS WHO MAY NOT HAVE KNOWLEDGE IN THE PARTICULAR FIELD. EXAMPLES OF PEER-REVIEWED JOURNALS ARE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AMERICAN POLITICS QUARTERLY AMERICAN POLITICS RESEARCH THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF POLITICS, CULTURE, AND SOCIETY AMERICAN JOURNALISM REVIEW POLICY REVIEW HARVARD INTERNATIONAL REVIEWTHE LIST OF PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS AS WELL AS THEIR SUBJECTMATTERS IS VAST. VISIT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY TO ACCESS THESE, OR IF YOU HAVE A LIBRARY CARD, ACCESS THEM THROUGH THEIR WEBSITE DATABASES.
EXAMPLES OF EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS’ PUBLICATIONSJOURNAL OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION RESEARCH AND THEORY UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS POLITICAL RESEARCH QUARTERLY UNIVERSITY OF UTAH DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS PUBLICATIONS HTTP://WWW.DUKEUPRESS.EDUHARVARD’S JOHN F KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS HTTP://WEB.HKS.HARVARD.EDU/PUBLICATIONS FOR MORE, SEE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PRESSES MEMBER LIST AT HTTP://WWW.AAUPNET.ORG ACCESS THESE AND MANY OTHERS AT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY, THELIBRARY’S WEBSITE (LOOK FOR DATABASES) OR THE WEBSITES OF THE INDIVIDUAL INSTITUTIONS.
PROJECT VOTE SMARTPROJECT VOTE SMART IS A WEBSITE THAT CAN BEFOUND AT VOTESMART.ORG. IT IS • non-partisan, nonprofit • funded exclusively through individual contributions and philanthropic foundations. • composed of biographies, voting records, issue positions, ratings, speeches, campaign finance information for all candidates for all offices.ONE PAGE ON THIS SITE, CALLED “VOTE EASY”FOUND AT HTTP://VOTESMART.ORG/VOTEEASY/,ALLOWS ONE TO CHOOSE HOW THEY FEELABOUT PARTICULAR ISSUES AND COMPARETHAT TO EACH CANDIDATE.
NON-PARTISAN, NONPROFIT WEBSITES FUNDED ENTIRELY BYINDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND PHILANTHROPIC FOUNDATIONS • VOTESMART.ORG (HTTP://VOTESMART.ORG/) • FACTCHECK.ORG (HTTP://WWW.FACTCHECK.ORG/) • SMARTVOTER.ORG (HTTP://WWW.SMARTVOTER.ORG/) • POLITIFACT.ORG (HTTP://WWW.POLITIFACT.COM/TRUTH-O-METER//) • OPENSECRETS.ORG (HTTP://WWW.OPENSECRETS.ORG/INDEX.PHP/) • MAPLIGHT.ORG(HTTP://MAPLIGHT.ORG//) • VOTE411.ORG (HTTP://WWW.VOTE411.ORG/) • PUBLICAGENDA.ORG (PUBLICAGENDA.ORG) • GOVTRACK.US (HTTP://WWW.GOVTRACK.US/) • POLITICAL PARTY WEBSITES • CANDIDATES’ WEBSITES • YOUR STATE’S DEPT. OF STATE WEBSITE (TENNESSEE’S CAN BE FOUND AT HTTP://WWW.TN.GOV/SOS/ELECTION/INDEX.HTM)
C-SPAN C-SPAN IS AN ACRONYM FOR CABLE-SATELLITE PUBLIC AFFAIRSNETWORK. C-SPAN IS A PRIVATE COMPANY FUNDED BY FEES PAID BY CABLE AND SATELLITE AFFILIATES WHO CARRY S-SPAN PROGRAMMING. WEBSITE HTTP://WWW.C-SPAN.ORG/CAMPAIGN2012/TV & RADIO (CHECK YOUR PROVIDER CHANNEL LISTINGS) C-SPAN C-SPAN 2 C-SPAN 3 C-SPAN RADIO
FINDING ACCURATE INFORMATION TAKES TIME AND EFFORT. IS IT WORTH IT?IT IS SAID THAT EARLY IN OUR HISTORY, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN WAS ASKED, "... WHAT FORM OF GOVERNMENT DO WE HAVE?" TO WHICH FRANKLIN RESPONDED, "A REPUBLIC IF YOU CAN KEEP IT."JOHN JAY, FIRST JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT, SAID, "LET VIRTUE, HONOR, THE LOVE OF LIBERTY ... BE ... THE SOUL OF THIS CONSTITUTION, AND IT WILL BECOME THE SOURCE OF GREAT AND EXTENSIVE HAPPINESS TO THIS AND FUTURE GENERATIONS. VICE, IGNORANCE, AND WANT OFVIGILANCE, WILL BE THE ONLY ENEMIES ABLE TO DESTROY IT”