According to the story related by an American lawyer when he was a government adviser in Afghanistan, the Taliban would issue threats that, if anyone is caught with indelible purple ink on their fingers, that they would cut the fingers off.
Indelible ink is used to identify those who have voted already so that they can’t vote twice,” he said.
“I recall a story of a photo shown to me of an old Afghan woman. …The photo showed her hand with three fingers missing but her pinky finger had indelible purple ink.
“Around the world, people are fighting and risking their lives just for their right to vote for their leaders. If they can go through such courage, then certainly we could go through the trouble of going out and exercise freely our right to vote,” he added.
Samantha Birmingham-Babauta echoed the same message when she spoke to the Current Issues class at the Northern Marianas College last Wednesday. She encouraged the millennial generation to exercise their right to vote. Aside from it being a civic responsibility, it is the direct way to have a voice in the political landscape of the CNMI, she said.
“I come here not as the public information officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. but in my own personal capacity and as a young voter, like all of you here. It is important to talk about this because a study shows that millennials ages 16-34 are expected to take over baby boomers by 2019,” she said.
“Eventually, we are going to take over as they [baby boomers] retire, transition out of leadership roles as the young generation graduate and become professionals. It’s really important that we…pay attention to what is happening nationally and locally. Even though we don’t have a lot of say nationally, it’s important to follow national issues and see how we feel about what is happening at the national level,” she added.
At some point, millennials will have to be ready to take over bigger roles.
“We have to think if we are building an environment for us that’s ready to take the next step and to lead the generations that are going to come after us.
“That’s why voting is so important. Paying attention to what is happening in the CNMI and having a voice is very crucial,” she added.
According to the CNMI Election Commission, as of March 27, 2018, the CNMI has 16,699 registered voters.
“Our biggest chunk of the age groups that are going to have the most influence on voting are the people between 18 to 55 years old. [About] 15.59 percent of the population is under the ages of 15 to 24 years old and 39.96 percent is between 25-54 years old,” Birmingham-Babauta said. “The millennials have so much power because they are such a big population.
“The problem is we don’t vote. If we do, we…ask our parents, who is good? And who should I vote for?” she added.
She pointed out that the young generation has the power to change many things in the community if they vote.
“Especially in the CNMI, we don’t follow politics. We think, ‘I don’t want to get involved in politics’ or ‘It’s not for me’ and ‘I don’t really care so why should I vote.’ But the truth is, it is our responsibility,” she said.
“If we have that mindset, that…’I don’t care who is running and I will just ask my parents,’ but at some point they are not going to be here to tell us who to vote for,” she added.
A single vote goes an extra mile because numbers are powerful in the CNMI, she said. “We are so small and our system is so unique in that sense,” she added.
Birmingham-Babauta said she cannot over-emphasize the importance of the young generation in getting involved in their community.
“Another study said that 51 percent of the global population is under 30 and only 2 percent of young people under 30 make up members in the government. This shows that we are more than half of the population but only 2 percent of our age group and demographics make up government administrations globally,” she said. “Is this study true in the CNMI?… we have to be part of the change that we want to see and actually experience. Who we vote for nationally and locally is our voice and our representation. That’s why it is important to vote wisely.”