Capitol Update from Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

July 1, 2004

To Celebrate True Freedom, Please Vote

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him"
Abraham Lincoln

On the Fourth of July we as Americans celebrate two of our highest ideals: freedom and peace. Yet many of us are forgetting the Constitutional right that ensures that we always enjoy these principles, the RIGHT TO VOTE.

For those who claim they are too busy to vote, or that it doesn't mean anything or that their vote does not count, I'd like them to tell that to a citizen of Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan have had to endure an invasion from the Soviet Union and the repressive Taliban regime, but will now be voting for the first time this September. The Afghan Online Press reports that over half the population of this remote nation are already registered to vote: 5.5 million out of 9 million eligible, including 2 million women. And the number of registered voters is rising daily, with over 120,000 people a day registering to vote.

They have fought for too long, and made too many sacrifices to throw away their vote.

The voting strength of Senate District 27--which includes all of Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, Kleberg and a portion of Hidalgo--should compare favorably to other Senatorial Districts. For Example, Senate District 7, which encompasses the northwest part of Harris County, contains about 700,000 people, while ours has a little over 640,000.

Our voter registration figures aren't too different; they have 385,195 (76.5 percent of voting-age residents) and we have 264,014 (62.7 percent of voting-age residents).

Where we differ greatly is voter turnout. For example, although District 7 can't exactly brag about its voter turnout--35.5 percent--our turnout is just 33.3 percent. That is, while 178,612 people go to the polls in northwest Harris County, only 88,017 people in District 27 actually vote.

The loudest voice and greatest impact, when comparing just these two areas of the state, definitely comes from Houston. That means that it makes it harder when elected officials like me try to fight for our constituents in Austin and the same holds true for federally elected officials in Washington.

When we say that we lack infrastructure, that we have difficulty attracting industries that pay higher wages, that we lag behind in graduate programs and professional schools, and that the ratio of patient to doctor is higher in South Texas than elsewhere in the state, we must examine our voting record. Low voter participation makes it harder for our voices to be heard.

This Fourth of July, we should reflect on this great country's amazing history. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia united to declare America's independence from England. It took until August of that year for the Declaration of Independence to be completely signed. Celebrations became commonplace after the War of 1812, but the Fourth of July was not declared a legal holiday until 1941.

So this Fourth, while you're celebrating by attending parades, watching fireworks and barbecuing, remember our nation's struggle to become independent and remember that every voter is critical to every election. No one should ever feel that his or her vote doesn't matter, because it always does.

On June 22, 2004, the Corpus Christi Caller Times reported that a Falfurrias city councilman lost his bid for re-election by one vote. And a Brownsville Herald story on June 6, 2004, noted that a $75 million public school bond was defeated by only 79 votes.

The simple act of voting cannot compare to the courageous acts and selfless sacrifices the men and women who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have made for the rest of us. We must especially remember the ultimate sacrifice already made by many of our servicemen and servicewomen of giving up their lives for their country, including those who have lost their lives in past wars.

In their honor and in honor of the determination of the people in Afghanistan preparing to vote for the first time, I am asking that the people of District 27 make a firm commitment to vote at every election. I am asking that people register and go to the polls, regardless of party affiliation. And those who already are, that you please continue this patriotic and most important practice.

May the people of District 27 and all of Texas have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July. As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Austin at 512-463-0127, Brownsville at 956-548-0227 and Weslaco at 956-968-9927.

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