Saturday, June 29, 2013

No Magu-Magu

I'd like you to look at this video produced by INEC - the Nigerian Independent National Election Commission.

(Work past the pidgin English, please... this is intended for a Nigerian audience, so you have to remember that we are visitors here. You are the one who talks funny.)

INEC is promoting voter registration. When democracy was restored in Nigeria, voter fraud was a real problem, and the Nigerians understand that fraudulent elections are not elections at all.

Their solution? A national database, picture ID, and biometrics to ensure "one man, one vote" with "no magu-magu" (rigging and fraud). They value their vote so much that casting a fraudulent vote can land you in Kiri Kiri (prison) for two years or cost you NGN200,000.  That's about $1,250 in 2011. To put that in perspective, most Nigerians live on less than $2 per day.

I love this video.  The presenter is obviously jazzed about the subject.  She's talking about hefty fines and hefty prison terms, but does so cheerfully and with a great deal of enthusiasm and appeal. Why? Because her vote matters, and it was diluted with repeat voters and fraudulent voters. A free and fair election absolutely requires one person, one vote; and that's what this system promised, and delivered. The 2011 Presidential elections in Nigeria  were the smoothest in recent memory. It wasn't without problems, or without intimidation and post-election violence, but that's to be expected until the bullies discover that the old tactics don't work anymore.

I'll repeat myself: A free and fair election absolutely requires one person, one vote. Not just one person, one vote, but the votes of those who are eligible. Those would be citizens, of lawful age, and established eligibility. That's a fair and honest election, and nobody but nobody should be apologetic about demanding it.

Yet here in the United States there are many of us who seem to be bending over backwards to throw away what the Nigerians have so recently embraced. Buried in high-minded rhetoric of "every vote counts" is the hidden message, "Please, please, PLEASE let us commit election fraud!", to which my answer is "No." Qualifying a voter isn't difficult, and in truth, the qualifications here are pretty much the same as in Nigeria.

Every eligible vote must count, once.

America, if you are really concerned with having fair elections, take the same effort you channel into the "get out the vote" efforts where you drive busloads of people to the polls, and get them down to Voter Registration. Do that NOW so that everything's in place for the next election. Promote a picture ID so that the same person doesn't show up at ten polling places. Make sure the deceased are no longer on the rolls. Block the "tombstone vote". Do not pander to people who are not properly registered. Block fraudulently cast votes. Prevent them. Only citizens are eligible to vote... so turn away illegal voters. Promote fair, honest, legal elections.

Your vote is not just your privilege; it's not just your right; it's your responsibility. Registration is easy... this site, Project Vote Smart, tells you how to do it in every state and territory in the US. You only have to do it once, and really... if you can't be bothered to register, and show up on election day sobbing about how unfair it is that you can't vote... well, as she says in the video, "Talk palm!" (i.e. "Talk to the hand!"). If you're a community organizer, don't play stupid; get out the registration. You know as well as I do that registration is what makes every vote count to its fullest extent.

Honestly, if you can't agree that no one who is not eligible may vote, and each eligible citizen votes once in any given election; you have no business whatsoever calling your politics democratic.

Note: The presenter is actress Ada Ameh, though she identifies herself as "Uduak Abasi" in the video. This may be an in-joke, as that's the name of another well-known Nigerian actress.

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