Democracy -Grassroots Style

Nov 032003
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

It’s Election Day!

All around the country people are flocking to their polling

places to cast their vote on the issues that ultimately shape the

community where they live. Oh wait. The presidential election is

next year. OK, so all around the country a handful of people are

trickling into the voting booths to decide the issues that shape

their communities.

Fun fact. People are more inclined to vote in national elections

than in local elections, which have more direct impact on their

lives. Voter turnout for local elections can sit at an embarrassing

30 percent, while the 2000 presidential election brought in a

“whopping” 51 percent of registered voters. This number still

doesn’t compare to last century’s national all-time high set in

1960 of 62.8 percent voter turn out. Compare this to Australia’s

recent 85 percent voter turn out and we can get a little

perspective of America’s political apathy. This despite the noble

efforts of organizations like Rock the Vote, which “harnesses

cutting-edge trends and pop culture to make political participation

cool.” (

Americans of age must be reminded that their voice is the most

powerful curb on politician’s potential abuse of power. This was

stated bluntly enough in 1824 when the Supreme Court’s Chief

Justice Marshall stated in Gibbons v. Ogden:

“‘The wisdom and the discretion of Congress, their identity with

the people, and the influence which their constituents possess at

elections, are… the sole restraints on which they have relied, to

secure them from its abuse. They are the restraints on which the

people must often rely solely, in all representative


This check applies just as much to state and local politics as

to Congress. Just ask recalled California Gov. Gray Davis.

Of course, holding our elected officials accountable is just one

small reason to get to the polls. The smaller local elections

present issues that directly affect how the community is shaped,

how it is run and how tax dollars are spent – this is your money,

make sure it is properly spent.

Voting is not the only way to express your voice. Contact your

elected officials. Don’t hesitate because you don’t want to be a

bother. Listening to your concerns is part of their job. Governor,

mayor, city council members, state representatives, national

representatives, the president and any other elected officials

should be regarded more as servants of the people than flock


The Internet has made it that much easier to contact your public

servants. With a few clicks you can e-mail the mayor or a

congressman – they can’t represent you if they don’t know where you

stand. Go to for contact information for

the mayor and council members of Fort Collins. Go to for information about contacting

your state servants.

Another great tool for democracy that has emerged with the

advent of technology is the Internet-based grassroots organization Move On provides information to Americans about

political events, contact numbers of elected officials and even

petitions that can be signed with a click of the mouse. Just an

example of the power of this tool is when Move On passed on a

petition – signed by hundreds of thousands of Americans – to

Congress pleading for action against the FCC’s relaxation of media

ownership regulations.

Tawna Webber, a junior studying psychology, said that she often

felt, like so many others, that she couldn’t make a difference –

that her “opinions don’t matter in the big political picture.”

But Webber said that with the win in the Senate about the FCC,

aided by Move On, she has hope. “This is a way to get your voice

out there and make a difference in a way that doesn’t interfere

with a busy schedule,” she said.

Speaking of busy schedules, Election Day should be made a

national holiday to ensure that people will be able to get to the

voting booths in time. It would also be a wonderful way to promote

one of the most fundamental aspects of a free society. Wouldn’t

Election Day reinforce the ideals of American society so much

better than Columbus Day?

Shannon is a senior majoring in technical journalism. Her column

runs every Tuesday.




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