This past week,there was a lot of attention on the Scottish independence vote to break away from the United Kingdom. We saw that major support for Scottish Independence had grown in the last several months. Polls even indicated that it was too close to call as to whether or not the Scottish would vote to break free.
While the hype for independence grew loud, the vote to maintain the status quo won in a decisive vote, at least what would be considered decisive in American elections, about 10 points. Though the vote did not have an outcome that
the world braced for, the Scottish voters did something in this election that we don’t see very often in American elections. Almost all of their eligible voters were registered to vote and most of those registered actually took the polls. And even though Scottish independence was voted against by 55% of the Scottish, the fact that most voters participated puts more meaning behind the 45% that lost the vote for independence. That would show that there is strong support for independence and that you can bet that this issue will not go away forever.
On our end, American participation in its elections is pretty dismal. We generally have a participation rate that is a little more than 60% in general elections, and probably less in midterm, or other state and municipal elections. Furthermore, it can be argued that Americans are often uneducated before casting their votes.
Now, the real talk…
The bottom line is that Americans should take notice with how this election took place in Scotland. This was not even a general election for the country, rather this was an election on a particular issue with huge ramifications. How is it that the Scottish people were more than 90% registered, and more than 80% actually went out to vote. Can you imagine America ever pulling those kinds of numbers in an election? We can’t even get 80% of voters to vote in a general election and a midterm is out of the question. Special elections can vary based on the subject matter, whether it be recall election for a political office, or a vote for a particular initiative.
In addition, how educated are Americans to make an informed vote on such important issues? This independence vote in Scotland was extremely important to the Scottish people and had huge effects around the world if independence had won. We have a lot of serious issues that we have to take care of in America. However, it is rare to get people to care about the variety of issues that we have; and many people do not even participate in a vote.
Let’s imagine for a second that a particular region of the country was forced to decide whether or not to secede from the United States. However, the decision was made solely on voters to cast a ballot to make that decision on an American secession from the rest of the country. Honestly, understanding how uneducated people are(at least on political issues) and the lack of enthusiasm and engagement in American elections, and that not a lot of people are engaging in our elections, I would be scared that a decision of that magnitude was being made in that magnitude.
We have to remember that while Congress has enjoyed an approval rating of less than 20% increasingly over the past decade, more than 90% of congress gets re-elected as students appear to be satisfied with their own representative. In this case, I can imagine that many people don’t understand that the way they vote contribute to the mess in congress, especially when they elect the same people. What Scotland shows us is how important an issue can become and how engaged all of its citizens were, something that I wish we can do on every major issue facing our country.
Now, I understand that Scotland is a much smaller place than the United States. However, it just seems like a sad state of affairs when not all eligible citizens are educated and engaged in the important issues that face the grand United States. We should definitely take a page out of Scotland’s book and figure out a way where we can have more voter participation and education. These are troubling times and these issues are too important and as a citizen of this country, I expect more of us as citizens. We must have a more active role in our future and must be willing to learn, educate, debate, and then make the decisions that are best for our country.
New York Times – Scotland Rejects Independence From United Kingdom