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Democracy Demands Citizen Participation

November 10, 2002

After reading "Nonvoters Express Disgust at Political System" (Nov. 6) I was disgusted. Do these people really think that by not voting they are sending a message to the politicians? I would like to know what their message is. They all sound like spoiled children who didn't get their way.

It's really a sad situation, because voting is the most important activity in a democracy. History shows that when people take the time to learn about the issues and candidates and vote, things do change.

Stan Gordon

Canoga Park

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I can't believe how low the voter turnout is time after time. Since I was a young girl accompanying my grandparents and parents to vote, I have understood the importance of standing up and being counted. I encountered many people who said they couldn't vote for either candidate for governor. Silly me, I thought there were many other items on the ballot.

I guess no one had an opinion on schools, water safety, trauma centers or children. The complacency that has infected the voters of California is despicable. Nothing will ever change if you don't at least take the first step.

Today I woke up and secession had not passed, so I wrote to Mayor James Hahn and invited him to my neighborhood council meetings. I will use my voice because I believe in this city, state and country. We are so blessed to have some form of protest and a way to speak our minds. All we have to do is take 15 minutes from one day. I take responsibility for my government. Can't everyone do the same?

Colleen Ancrile

Van Nuys

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Several years ago, while teaching at a California state university, I required my students to register to vote, unless they were under 18. I was aware of the very low voting rate among students of college age. Unfortunately, because of some student complaints, I had to drop the requirement. The new chair of women's studies (who resigned later that year) said that the course I was teaching in women's studies was not related to politics -- an absurd statement, because the election results would affect women's lives.

This event reminded me of my futile attempt to give out copies of the Bill of Rights to eighth-grade students in an American history class I was student-teaching in 1969. I was teaching the students about the Constitution. I knew that polls had shown that people, when presented with the Bill of Rights without it being called the Bill of Rights, thought it was communist propaganda. My training teacher said that I couldn't distribute the pamphlets because they were printed by the ACLU, a "controversial organization."

At that point I realized that I had a "trained incapacity" to teach public school students and returned to school, where I obtained my PhD.

Pauline B. Bart

Professor Emerita, UCLA

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I voted Democratic for the first 22 years of my voting life. That was, until this election. Every opportunity I had to vote for a candidate who was neither a member of the Democratic nor Republican Party, I did so. In 2002, the U.S. does not have a democracy but a dictatorship. No, we don't have a wild-eyed, egomaniacal leader who cuts off the arms and legs of any person who voices dissent. But our citizens do not choose their leaders, just as the citizens of Iraq do not choose their leadership. Americans can vote for either a Democrat or a Republican, but because these are essentially the same people, there is not any true choice. I will no longer vote for the lesser of two evils.

Only when America enacts stringent campaign-finance and campaign-spending reform will true democracy rise in this land. If there are strict caps on how much money can be raised and how much can be spent in an election, then the playing field will be leveled and the result will be the birth of new and competitive political parties. When we have reform and multiple competitive parties, then there will be real choice and true democracy in America for the first time.

Kent Victor Schuelke

Los Angeles

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