Three stories about voting

Close your eyes, pick a name, and drop it in.

Some letters to the editor printed in this week's Southern Weekly:

Will you vote?
by Liu Bao, Changzhou, Jiangsu Province

It's once again election time for People's Congress representatives in my area, and in the neighborhoods and offices you can see candidates' lists posted. But truth be told, not a single one of the voters I know, including myself, cares about the notices.

At age eighteen we are given the right to vote. Voting is too easy for us—isn't it just drawing a circle on a piece of paper? How to find out about the candidates, and how to pick a qualified representative, is something of a mystery to the average voter. The easiest thing is to simply draw a circle below a name that you may or may not have heard of.

One of my teachers said he attended a civics class more than sixty years ago that discussed how to organize an election and how to cast a ballot, so from an early age they understood the technology behind an election. I never attended such a class; though I have a ballot in my hand, will I vote? This is indeed a problem.

Why can't grandma and grandpa vote?
yfcheng, Junan, Shandong Province

The election for our village committee was very disappointing. The cadres went from house to house with ballots to let the villagers vote in front of them. Some elderly people, including my grandparents, had no opportunity to vote, because the cadres never went to their houses.

My grandparents are not yet sixty, and their minds are still clear—why can't they vote? My grandmother angrily told me about this, so, from the county high-school where I am studying, I gave a phone call to a newspaper in the provincial capital. They said that they could not report on such a sensitive issue. I am saddened that the media cannot exercise effective oversight, and I am troubled by the current state of grass-roots democratic politics.

Casting ballots is not just a formality for citizens
Yan Jingjing, Hong Kong

On 18 November, ballots will be cast in the Hong Kong district council elections. Today (29 October), I received a voting notification about the elections that contained four items in total. The first was a description of voting procedure, telling me where and when I should cast my ballot, what documentation I should bring, and the process of voting. On the back was a detailed map. The second item had brief introductions of the candidates: photos of the three candidates in my district, personal information, and a brief statement of their platform. The third item was a long, thin card, the official "ballot notification." The fourth item was a "voter information" notification issued by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, warning against engaging in any sort of voter malpractice, and providing a detailed description of voting methods.

I remember that when I went to study in Beijing, I encountered an election for People's Congress representatives. The class cadre gave us a verbal notification that on such and such a day and at a certain classroom building we would take part; we cast our ballots in utter confusion. At the time I felt that I was nothing more than a ballot-casting tool. I only saw the list of candidates after I arrived at the polling place. There were three of them, and we were to choose any two. From start to finish I never saw any description of their platform. Aside from their names, departments, and positions, I knew nothing about them. In addition, because the household registration of every mainland student is transferred to their school during their time at university, they had a rule that every student must vote. As a result, even a student like me, with Hong Kong documentation and no household registration, was forced to cast a ballot.

Today, looking at the four items in my hands, my first reaction is that I am being treated as a "citizen." Casting a ballot a democratic process set down in the law, not merely a formality to show off democracy. If you provide insufficient information before the ballot is cast, if you do not give the electorate the respect they deserve, if you only shove a ballot into their hands and then command from on high, "Go. Vote!"—is this a case of not taking the voters seriously, or of not taking elections seriously?

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