John Havelock: Be a patriot and vote

The Fourth of July is a celebration of American democracy, an institution that has no meaning without the exercise of the right and duty to vote.

This Fourth of July, as you pledge allegiance, pledge to fulfill that allegiance by doing all you can to vote in the primary election on August 19 and the general election on November 4.

Pledge further that you will try first to inform yourself on the issues and candidates. Less time is due the primary but still, for independents and Republicans, an important choice among U.S. Senate candidates. For everyone, there's Ballot Measure One: should the Legislature be sent back to look at oil taxes again with a yes vote or are we content with the Legislature's enactment last session?

Try to ignore the paid television ads, the money that is corrupting our information system. Instead, read your newspaper and watch or listen to the television and radio debates. Better still, attend candidate forums. Having informed yourself, fulfill the last part of your pledge by either going to the polling place on Election Day or earlier mailing an absentee ballot.

On the Fourth of July 1776, the Congress of the United States approved the Declaration of Independence, formally terminating the rule of King George III. Rejecting royal rule, the Declaration substituted an elected president and Congress and, adopting a federal system, the democratically elected rulers of the thirteen sovereign states of the new union.

Fortunately, much has been done to improve the composition of the electorate, adding people of no property and finally, not until the 20th Century, women and people of color. The England of George III's time elected a House of Commons, but its membership was gerrymandered and it shared power with a House of Lords. "One person, one vote" came late even to the United States. The gerrymander is still around. The English king evolved into a symbolic head of state with real power in an elected Commons.

Defenders of democracy can concede that your vote "doesn't count." The chances of a single vote changing the results of an Alaska legislative race or ballot proposition are next to zero. Your standing to salute the flag or pledging allegiance to the country or singing the national anthem doesn't count for anything either, yet you do it because you are an American and believe in America.

That lapel sticker you get at the voting place on election day marks you as a true patriot, a person who will stand up for democracy even if your personal vote doesn't make any difference. Of course if it's not just you but your friends, or the whole neighborhood that doesn't vote, that can and often will make a difference.

It is easier for some to vote than others. Those whose jobs include physical work can be tired and looking for rest at the day's end. For some people access to the polling place is not easy. Some feel "what do I know?" Never mind, surely you at least have a trusted and informed friend who can tell you what she thinks.

The prosperous are less bothered by the meaningless vote problem. They know that their views will get better representation because they vote as one, out of duty. Every eligible voter who neglects the duty to cast an informed vote contributes in a small way to the de-democratization of America.

Alaskans in particular are profoundly fortunate finding themselves in an enormous state with a proportionately tiny population. This population skinniness gives Alaskans an unparalleled opportunity to meet and know the candidates. Talk to a wide-eyed citizen of New York about how you discussed an issue with Sens. Begich or Murkowski. Further, public sector decisions, particularly state and local decisions (no matter that we complain about federal overreach), are far more important to the details of life in Alaska than they are in any other state.

So brush up your citizenship on August 19. Stand as proud of your citizenship on November 4 as when you salute the flag today.

Anchorage attorney and university scholar John Havelock, started his political life in an "I like Ike" campaign and can't ever remember not voting.