| Photo courtesy of WSHU.org Seth Wenig/AP
The right to vote is a fundamental right of the citizens in a free and democratic country, like the United States. Such freedom is so important that citizens of non-democracies who demand it are jailed or die for it. Indeed, the right to vote is essential, but more important is the exercise of that right and the fervent hopes that come with it.
The right itself is useless unless exercised. It is only when the citizen cast his or her vote that he or she shares in determining the country’s future and in shaping the way of life of its people. For American voters, the effects of their votes, especially during these troubled times, are far-reaching. The outcome will reverberate worldwide.
With these consequences in mind, it is disturbing to read and hear reports and allegations that some quarters are trying to influence the elections’ results through questionable methods that cast doubts on the outcome’s credibility. It will be wise for us to consider who might be responsible for those actions when we cast our votes.
“The right itself is useless unless exercised. It is only when the citizen cast his or her vote that he or she shares in determining the country’s future and in shaping the way of life of its people.”
All Americans by birth or by choice who are at least eighteen years old will have the chance to exercise their right to vote. For this year, voters can personally vote before the actual election date of November 3, 2020, Tuesday, because of the coronavirus pandemic. An unprecedented number of people have chosen to vote by mail. How many will exercise their right will depend on many immeasurable factors, including the candidates’ personalities, the issues they represent, and the party organizations’ strength. In many so-called democracies globally, the number of qualified voters who vote are relatively high compared to the voter turnout in the United States where about 60% of eligible voters may be the norm.
This year, people expect a higher voter turnout because of the time given to qualified voters to cast their votes, coupled with the widely disseminated campaign to encourage voting by mail. Besides, the stark differences of the presidential candidates’ personalities and their views on how government should address the problems facing the country and people should give them reasons to vote. If reports of early voter turnout are accurate, and if early voters waiting in long queues in our area replicate in other states, there will indeed be an exceptionally high voter turnout.
To members of the minority groups, like Filipino Americans, the privilege to exercise the right to vote should not be taken for granted. People cannot elect many of us to policy-determining offices. Not many of us get appointed or promoted to positions that will make us active players in policy determination. For most of us, the closest we can ever be policymaking is voting for candidates whose views closely reflect our perceptions of what the government should do on any particular issue.
“As a distinct ethnic and cultural group, it will be better if Filipino Americans vote not according to party lines, but to issues, the candidates promise to promote. History shows that neither Republicans nor Democrats can claim to have the monopoly of addressing issues beneficial to Filipino Americans or the Philippines.”
It may not be possible to measure the actual effect of Filipino American votes on government policies, particularly at the national level. Its impact will be significantly cognizable if combined with other minority groups.
For example, on immigration, which directly affects all minorities, the combined votes of Filipino Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, Hispanics, and other former citizens of developing countries will result in the ends we all desire. On immigration, we have a commonality of interest to pursue.
As a distinct ethnic and cultural group, it will be better if Filipino Americans vote not according to party lines, but to issues, the candidates promise to promote. History shows that neither Republicans nor Democrats can claim to have the monopoly of addressing issues beneficial to Filipino Americans or the Philippines. Our voting strength will be more effective if concentrated locally – at the village, school district, county, or congressional district level. We should direct our united efforts to these political subdivisions.
I emphasize “united” because opportunism and the readiness to kowtow to established politicians and political parties have in the past prevented us from winning election contests. We should have won those contests if we were united, with no more than one Filipino American candidate for the same government position.
“This coming election, let us exercise our right to vote by electing the candidate who honestly shares our views. To serve an even higher and nobler purpose, we can vote based on issues that will promote the more significant number of our society’s welfare.”
We should be proud to read and learn of a select few Filipino Americans who seek elective public offices. It is not to say that we should blindly vote for every Filipino American who presents himself or herself as a candidate for public office. The truth is, we can identify with a Filipino American candidate more than any other. It should not, in any way, be negatively considered racism, but merely a declaration of reality.
This coming election, let us exercise our right to vote by electing the candidate who honestly shares our views. To serve an even higher and nobler purpose, we can vote based on issues that will promote the more significant number of our society’s welfare. Idealistic as it is, but it is supposed to be the real purpose for which government exists.
Let us hope that the candidate we vote for (and wins) will do what he or she promised to do. If among our readers are voters in a place where a Filipino American is a candidate, vote for the Filipino American before you consider another. Soar above crab mentality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.