I urge each and every constituent in Tobago where THA elections are to be held simultaneously with by-elections in five electoral districts in Trinidad (Morne Coco/Alyce Glenn in the Diego Martin Regional Corporation; Arima Central, in the Arima Borough Corporation; Hollywood in the Point Fortin Borough Corporation; Cunupia in the Chaguanas Borough Corporation; and Hindustan/St Mary in the Princes Town Regional Corporation) who is eligible to vote in those elections scheduled for Monday to come out and exercise their franchise.

This is a great civic responsibility. When eligible voters refuse to vote, it erodes democracy. It creates a sense of cynicism among those who believe their vote does not matter.

People must have a passion and interest in the political process. No one must say or feel their vote is not important. It is very important, since one vote can help make the difference, be it for good or, God forbid, for worse.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, the first elections under universal adult suffrage to the Legislative Council were held on July 1, 1946, and the first county council elections on October 28 the same year, but the right to vote under universal adult suffrage was granted by the British Parliament in 1945, limiting the franchise to those 21 years and over. However, T&T’s 1976 Republican Constitution extended the franchise to those attaining the age of 18 years.

Notably, the voter turnout in the 1946 Legislative Council elections was as high as 83.9 per cent, with the British Empire Citizens’ and Workers Home Rule Party and the United Front winning three seats each on the then-nine-seat Legislative Council.

Moreover, our attainment of this franchise was not without struggle, as its genesis is deeply rooted in the 1937 social unrest here in T&T, known as the Butler Riots.

The process for universal adult suffrage commenced with a petition for a representative assembly, which quickly grew to a wider demand for universal adult suffrage.

Universal adult suffrage gives the right to vote to all adult citizens, regardless of wealth, income, gender, social status or race. This was not always the case, as between 1925 and 1946 only men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 could vote, but with a requirement for property ownership and income.

Therefore, our vote is a very precious commodity, one we must cherish dearly. It is not something we can barter or sell to the highest bidder. Our vote is the civil instrument by which we choose the best representatives to manage and guide the affairs of our community and, by extension, our country.

Our vote has the power to protect us from unreliable representation. If we do not go out and vote, should we then have the right to complain?

The power of the vote is in the index finger, and the only way to exercise your franchise and make your vote count is to visit the polling station and stain that finger.

Rishi Lakhan

via e-mail