Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Going to the Place of Your Birth to Vote. Or to bear a child. Or to accept a Christmas gift…

One of many strange details I discovered about the Dominican Republic was that people had to go their hometown to vote! Yet, voter turnout rates tend to be quite high if we look not at the number of registered voters, but the percentage of all people of voting age, registered or not. Since 1974, the lowest turnout during a Presidential election year was 48.78%, highest was 71.63%, the average being about 63.81%. Compare that to the US Presidential races for the same group and period - lowest was 51.28% and highest 62.08% (2004), (interestingly our 2008 "all time high" year for Obama was 58.23% - close to the average of 58.1%).

But we can vote from home! Can you imagine what voter turnout would be if we had to travel to our birthplace to vote?

In DR, this year voting took place on a Sunday, so the fewest number of people would be working - and therefore able to vote. And, what appears to be common but illegal practice, both of the major parties provided buses from Santo Domingo (where 1/3 of the country's population lives) to various locales. Each party hoped that by offering a free trip home - a three-day vacation so to speak - the individual would vote for them.

Seems like instead of being illegal, a bus ticket should be given away to everyone who wants one, if they make you travel anywhere from 1 - 7 hours to cast a vote. How many of us, even if given free bus fare, would go to our birthplace to vote?

Why this system in the Dominican Republic? Who knows: Tradition. Time with family. Buying votes. Hoping fewer people will vote. An arcane governmental computer system. Attempts to keep votes from being bought (an extremely common practice) because in your hometown they will know if you are the person on your Cedula (personal identification card).

Can you imagine having to go to your birthplace to vote or for a census no matter what, even if you were pregnant? I wonder if this would make February, in spite of Valentine's Day, a month of celibacy.

Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, City of David, both Joseph's and Mary's birthplace (good thing they could go together), because they had to. We all know the story - but we look at Jesus' birthplace from where we stand today in history—after the fact. We also look BACK on prophecy. Jesus was the Messiah, Emmanuel (God with us). Where was He born? (Bethlehem - House of Bread is the translation. How appropriate for the Bread of Life to be born there.) Is that where the Messiah was supposed to be born? (Yes)

As I read the December 2nd and 4th devotions in The Coming of Peace, written by Dr. Reverend Timothy Smith (my friend and Pastor) of I began to turn this story around, to look at it from the perspective of those living in that time in history.

Before the birth of Jesus, in fact for 1000 years prior, the Jewish people knew of a prophecy, a promise given to King David, that the Messiah would come from his lineage, as told in I Chronicles 17:10+. And from then on, the lineage of David was followed and closely watched, to see who would be born in the City of David, and to discover who would fulfill that promise. The people of Israel were not the only ones to follow the many Judaic prophecies. The wise men studied the stars and found Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They told Herod where they were going, and when they didn’t report back to the efficacy of the story, Herod assumed the King of the Jews had been born and sent soldiers to try to kill that rival King. All boys under the age of two found in Bethlehem were murdered. These prophesies were not taken lightly, as fantasy or stories for the weak-minded needing a spiritual crutch (as some atheists or secular humanists are fond of repeating). Wise men bowed down in homage, kings and soldiers, and later the religious elite and lawyers, did all they could to destroy his ministry and his life.

If everyone was looking forward, could this not have been one of the reasons Rome forced everyone to go to their homelands for a census - to identify and contain the power of this rogue King before he even had a chance to grow up?

But we stand looking back from this side of history, at risk of being bored by the repeated story of a Virgin birth, visiting angels, God living among us, and the choice to accept the Messiah as our personal King.

If we could travel to the place of our birth to find new life, would we bother to "vote" for eternity, or would it be too inconvenient to bother, even if the ticket to life were offered for free.


Statistic Sources - IDEA: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
DR -; US -

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome! (Note, they will be moderated.)