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Voting is a Right and a Responsibility

Voting is a Right and a Responsibility

— Joe Sohm/Getty Images

Once again it’s election season in the Virgin Islands. As the summer of 2010 comes to a close, the activities of our political candidates are shifting into overdrive as they head into the primaries. After the primaries, candidates will face the real test of their candidacy – the candidate forums, public debates and in-depth scrutiny of their personal and professional history and voting records.

As in all U.S. jurisdictions, the government we receive is the government we, as voters, elected. We, the citizenry are responsible for who sits in Government House and in the Legislature. We bear the full responsibility for our elected officials – as well as the policies and agendas they bring with them to public office.

AARP feels there are two important things voters need to appreciate – voter rights and voter responsibilities. Throughout our history people have fought and died so that others could have the privilege to vote for the government they desire. However, today we frequently hear the bemoaning of those who dislike the new office holders. But, the first thing we should do is ask them: “Did you vote?”

The next questions are ones that voters don’t necessarily expect. Did you fulfill your voter responsibilities by fully researching where the candidates stood on the issues? Do you know about their voting history or professional reputation? Did you make an effort to determine which candidates should be trusted in public service?

Virgin Islands voters’ rights include the right to have your vote counted accurately, the right to vote without intimidation, and the right to ask for assistance, if needed, while voting. But voters also have several responsibilities. Unfortunately, some people feel that simply showing up and voting is enough to fulfill their civic responsibility. These people really don’t get it. The type of government we get is an outcome of the type of candidates we demand. Too often the votes are actually a better indicator of the amount of dollars spent on the political spin or great campaign parties rather than real knowledge of what’s in our best interest.

There are several high profile, public events being presented this year to help voters gain the knowledge they need. These events include: two candidate forums hosted by the People United for a Better Virgin Islands (PUBVI). These forums will be held Oct. 7 for Senate candidates, and Oct.14 for Gubernatorial and Delegate to Congress candidates. They will also be re-broadcast on TV 10 and TV 6.

The Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (VIUCEDD) will hold two, two-day forums which will focus on issues impacting our disabled community. These dates are Oct. 4-5 on St. Croix, and Oct. 7-8 on St. Thomas. The League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands will conduct a series of interviews with the candidates targeting key topics like health care, the economy and jobs, the environment, and much more. These interviews will appear on Channel 12. Generation Now will also issue their Candidate Report Card so that voters will know how the candidates voted and where they stood on various issues. Other very non-partisan organizations will be hosting forums as well. Watch for advertising for these events.

And finally, the VI Board of Elections will hold an Elections Expo in St. Croix Oct. 2 where voters can have the opportunity to personally interact with the candidates.

AARP will be part of most of these activities and we will be issuing our Voter Guides with questions for the candidates in mid-September. If you have questions or issues you would like to have included at these forums, please contact AARP at viaarp@aarp.org.

This year, as a voter do more than simply show up to vote. Get involved, get informed and then vote.

Find more information on the Election System of the Virgin Islands website.

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