|The right to vote is a fundamental cornerstone of a country’s democracy, as it is preservative of all other rights. Ordinary men and women have fought - and even died - to gain voting rights and to protect people’s right to vote without intimidation or obstruction.
You may not realize it, but there's more to that right than just putting an ‘X’ on a piece of paper. The election process is one of the hallmarks of a democracy and determines how we choose who will make important decisions about our health, safety, and financial condition, just to name a few things. The decision has a direct impact on you, everyone in your family and community, and perhaps people across the country.
Universal Adult Suffrage
Universal adult suffrage was granted to most Caribbean countries in the early 1950s. This means that every citizen of the country, generally 18 years or older, is entitled to cast his/her vote in all national elections. Prior to universal adult suffrage, there was only limited franchise with only men in a particular class having the right to vote.
Over the past decades, many Caribbean citizens have understood the importance of their right to vote. However, there is a growing decline in voter turnout in most countries, resulting in of trend of between 60-70% of registered persons voting in recent elections. This means that, in some cases, 40% of registered voters do not vote. It's a concern if fewer people decide to exercise their right to have a say in the political process.
Here are some things you can do to make sure your voice is heard.
Prior to the Election
- Register to vote - you can't vote without registering.
- Find out where you vote. It may be down the street or a few miles away. If you can't find transportation to the polling place, call your local election board and ask about transportation, or consider early- or absentee-voting. Usually, you'll receive a sample ballot with information about your voting location
On Polling Day
- Go out and vote!
- Find out what you need before you get to the polling station
- To vote on Polling Day:
- You must be registered to vote
- You must prove your identity
- Ensure that you are aware of the opening time for polling stations in your country.
- Remember that you must be already in line before the cut-off time for closing of the station to be allow to vote.
- If you are employed, your employer must allow you a reasonable period for voting. Your employer cannot stop you from voting, nor can your employer require you to take time off without pay.
Take part and exercise your right to vote, and be sure to respect the rights of other voters, too. Elections are important to us all, and we all deserve the chance to participate.