05 October 2006

No Vote, No Cash

I found myself taken with the ADN's editorial this morning:

Have we lost some of our sense of the commonwealth? In announcing the 1999 dividend, then-Revenue Commissioner Wilson Condon reminded Alaskans of Section 1 of the Alaska Constitution:

"This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry; that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State."

It's a wonderful concept, obligation, and one we do not talk about nearly enough. We have a bill of rights, but not a bill of obligations. Why not? A just society demands work and attention. People need to take an interest in what goes on, stay educated about the issues, ask questions, and so on and so forth. It's not a simple task to be a democratic citizen.

A citizen's easiest obligation is to cast a ballot on election day. But voter turnout is depressingly low. Despite public debates over the school budget and the city budget, squabbles over the sales tax, and a controversial mine north of town, only 1 in 3 Nomeites could be bothered to take five minutes to vote in Tuesday's municipal election.

So here's a simple idea, riffing off the ADN's theme of obligation and the PFD. How about tying every Alaskan's right to (one of) every Alaskan's duty. You only get a PFD if you vote.

We'd have to tweak the idea for folks not eligible to vote or folks eligible to vote but not for the PFD and determine which election counts (primary, municipal, general?) but might it not be a start towards making the PFD less of an entitlement?


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