What is the duty of a citizen? Here is one definition.
1. Support and defend the Constitution
2. Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
3. Participate in the democratic process.
4. Respect and obey federal, state and local laws.
5. Respect the rights, beliefs and opinions of others.
6. Participate in your local community.
The results of the 2022 primary election in California bring up the issue of citizenship. To older citizens the six duties stated above are not strange or unusual. The question is how do these duties relate to younger voters?
How many of our schools are teaching the history and meaning of the United States Constitution in any significant detail? How many are teaching students to respect the rights, beliefs and opinions of everyone? How many adults understand the importance of participation in their local communities?
Number 3 on the list is to participate in the democratic process. That means first and foremost that a citizen should vote. That also means that a citizen makes the effort to find out what they are voting for or against.
Let’s relate these duties of a citizen to our recent primary election. Number 2 is quite interesting. Stay informed. With all of the methods of communication available there was one glaring example of failure to stay informed. Kevin Burke was running for Sheriff. He had been endorsed by the Democrat Party. He had appeared at various campaign events. Unfortunately, he died on April 5th after his name was on the ballot. The local papers carried a number of stories about him and about the memorial held in his memory. The local radio station mentioned it. Nonetheless, so far Kevin Burke has received 6,584 votes.
What are some of the other areas where citizens need to be informed? How about the state Legislature? Easily 3000 bills can be introduced in January of the new session. Hundreds of those bills will become law. Many of the bills deal with routine governmental issues but quite a few of them have to do with very important issues. Knowledge of proposed laws means a citizen is informed of community issues. State laws definitely affect citizens.
Unfortunately, many voters do not understand how our election system works. Let’s go through the election process.
All voters in California received their ballots in the mail. The job of the voter was to fill out the ballot, Sign it, seal it and either put it in the mail, go to one of the designated polling places or for the most secure path take it to the Registrar of Voters office on Fiscal Drive in the County complex. Unsigned ballot envelopes are not immediately counted and are set aside. The voter is contacted before July 5 to come to the Registrar’s office and sign their ballot. If the voter does not respond the ballot will not be counted.
Voters received their ballots for the June 2022 primary the second week of May. The official election date was June 7th. Ballots received by the Registrar’s office by June 1st are included in the count on election night. Any ballots that came in after June 1st will be counted in the following weeks. The ballots that have been counted by June 1st are those that are announced after 8:00 p.m. on June 7th and give a fairly accurate report of the winner if it is not a very close race. If the numbers for a race are very close votes will continue to be counted and the winner will not be declared. The final date for an election to be certified in the county is July 7th. Certification by the Secretary of State is July 15th.
Four people are assigned to adjudicate any votes that are questionable. For example, if a person has voted for two candidates for the same position, that vote is adjudicated and will be declared invalid. Adjudication of ballots happens after the signature check which is done by machine and personnel.
So, this is the structure of an election. Now, let’s take the concept of citizenship to our daily lives. Most people just want to live their daily lives in peace and quiet and not be bothered by a lot of regulations and harassment. They are prepared to work and raise their families and benefit from the American way of life. So how does being a good citizen relate to our daily lives? More importantly, how do we maintain a good life?
If you are not paying attention to what is going on in your community and your country you might wake up and discover that the “powers that be” have different plans for you and the country. For example: during the 2020 presidential election many people voted for a candidate they were sure was going to bring peace and tranquility back to the country. Not many people had thoroughly checked out Mr. Biden’s views on energy. Surprise! Mr. Biden has always wanted to get rid of fossil fuel. Ergo! We had major oil drilling and refining stopped virtually overnight. Oops! Check the price of gasoline. We went from energy independence to begging Russia, Saudi Arabia and even Venezuela for oil.
In order for a vote to have real meaning it is necessary for the voter to do his or her homework. That means completing some research, studying the issues, and really understanding the positions of the candidates and their history in relation to their voting records. Unfortunately, it takes some effort with today’s media to get the facts but it can be done.
Our country’s future depends on citizens taking the time to get the facts and then make responsible decisions. True citizenship requires effort and commitment.