Taking our right to vote for granted

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, April 12, 2014


NEXT week, just days before the Holy Week break, I'm going to register as a first time voter here in North Carolina. I have done some research and reading and preparing my requirements before I register.

This would be my first registration and hopefully my first to vote in an election here in the US. Since it's my first time to vote, I want everything would be okay. After all I always believe in the importance of the right to vote.

The right to vote is one of the basic rights given to an American citizen. And I take this right to heart just like I take my right to vote in the country of my birth, the Philippines. In other parts of the world, the right to vote is but a dream.

I share with you today my thoughts and criteria for becoming a voter here in North Carolina.

To register for voting in NC, people must be: (1) a US citizen by birth or naturalization 2) at least 18 years by Election Day 3) not serving a felony sentence including probation and 4) a resident of the county where he or she is registered.

I think both the US and the Philippines have more or less the same requirements. If you look at it the requirements are simple. The system here in North Carolina is that we register and vote at the library or any public designated place.

There are a number of libraries hence there is no long line when registering or voting. I remember back home we are also patriotic about our rights of suffrage especially in the last few years when everybody was really advocating that we vote.

We Filipinos sadly know already that this right is being violated and manipulated by some unscrupulous candidates who use voters to advance their interests.

In my country of birth, there are designated dates for registration. The registrants procrastinate and wait for the last day to register, resulting in long lines under the heat of the sun that fries their nerves and tempers.

I suggest that the registration is performed the whole year, not just for a month or two to also give time for correction of entries.

Other Filipino voters also couldn't register because they lack requirements like birth certificates and affidavits. What I'm saying is that requirements should be more simplified and the registration process should be a total team effort.

This means that the Commission of Elections (Comelec) shouldn't be burdened with all the work. It should be aided by the Census and Statistics offices and the local registrars.

Birth certificates for purposes of registration to vote should be free at no cost and could not be used for other purposes in order to further democratize the elections.

The right to vote is something we Filipinos take for granted which is tragic because it is a right that defines our nation as a democracy.

Universal suffrage — letting everyone vote — didn't happen overnight for many lives were lost to ensure that we can use this important right. And the exercise of that fundamental right starts with registration.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 12, 2014.

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