Voting and civic duty in Romania: why we should make a change today

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This year brought upon us a lot of uncertainty. From the global pandemic to the protests against discrimination held by numerous countries, 2020 is definitely the year we start to see a change in people. Romania is no exception here and now, more than ever, we realize how much we are dependent on other citizens to keep our communities healthy and safe. What civic duty has to do with this though? On the 27th of September, Romania will hold its local elections. However, more and more Romanians are losing their trust in the political class. They are considering whether they should vote or not.

My experience

Once you turn 18, you receive many more rights than before. You also receive more responsibilities as an adult citizen of this country. This is what civic duty is. It isn’t mandatory to vote by any means, but as an adult, you are now responsible not only for yourself but to some extent for your community as well. I think we should remind that to the younger generation as well. I don’t believe most of the people from my generation are malicious or ill-intended, but rather they are misinformed. We live in a society where adults remind their kids every day to shut up and mind their own business. So why are we so surprised that they grow up believing that their vote doesn’t matter?

For me, voting has been a big deal since I was a child. I remember going with my parents when there was an election and thinking that it was such a cool thing because only the adults could do it. My dad has always been into politics and involved a lot in our local community. So I never asked myself whether I should go and vote or not. Sure, I had my doubts when it came to whom I should vote, but I never stopped and considered why so many people choose not to do this.

“Generația VOT”

That’s why, once I saw this movement called “Generația VOT” (“VOTE Generation”) on Instagram and Facebook, I knew I could get some answers to my questions. Tushar Advani, my fellow volunteer at ESN UniBucharest and co-founder of the “When It’s Over” project, was kind enough to clue me in on what the normal citizen believed about the concept of voting and why the movement he and Cristi Drăgan created was so necessary.

•  Let’s start simple: what is “Generația VOT” and how did you get the idea?

”Generația VOT” is a movement that Cristi Drăgan and I came up with to make voting cool with all kinds of messages that we thought people of our generation would like. We also inform them about the elections, the candidates, and everything that would be important.

•  Just to clarify this for the readers: do you encourage people to vote for a specific person or political party?

Absolutely not! Our goal with this page is just to motivate the people from our generation to go out and vote. The right to vote comes along with the right to choose. People have their own opinions. They also have the right to choose which candidate they feel like represents them. We have no intention to make people vote for a certain party or candidate.

•  I see that you guys are doing a lot of work to reach out to people. What reactions do you get when they see your signs on the streets or social media? Do you have “haters” or people who aren’t pleasant to talk to? I ask you this because, as far as I can see, the subject of voting can lead to quite heated debates on social media.

We have had our share of “haters” with people asking if we are being paid by someone to do this. They also say that we are manipulating people or that we are brainwashed to believe that our vote matters. However, we tend to move past the negative ones. The amount of sheer passion and support that we are getting from other people completely outweighs the ones who are trying to bring our spirits down.

•  What do most people that you talk to say? Are they going to vote?

Most of the people that we have talked to are excited to vote but they don’t have enough information to figure out who to vote with. With all the conflicting news on TV, there aren’t as many places to find out exactly who the candidates are and what we are voting for. If they exist, they are not promoted enough to reach the people. People do want to vote but we need to promote sources that provide information about everything in regards to the election and how they can find out about their political orientation and who represents them the best.

•  If there is someone who is sure that they aren’t going to vote, what are their general reasons? And how would you try to convince them otherwise?

Generally, people who don’t want to vote tell us that we don’t have anyone to vote with (”N-am cu cine vota.”). Or that they don’t believe their vote matters that much.

To those who say that they don’t have anyone to vote with, I would still recommend to go and vote. As they say, if they feel like nobody represents them, they can always nullify their vote instead of not going to vote at all.

And to those who don’t want to vote at all because they don’t believe it matters, I am going to quote a friend of mine when I asked her what voting represents to her, “In a word, voting is freedom. It is inheritance, something you can do and leave it better for the generations to come. It’s a community, where everyone is there for each other and helps each other. Voting is a right, trying to mend the past mistakes and growing through them with what we have. It’s a freedom of expression and a right to have an opinion.”

•  Because I know you are the person to get involved in many awesome projects, what makes this one special in your opinion?

What makes this project special for me is the community that we have created through it. People who are active and full of civic spirit. People who believe that we can do better together. It’s the passion that we have for our country, for the wellbeing of our generation and the ones to come. It’s the fact that we are simply trying. We believe that these things that we do, however small they may be, are making a difference. Maybe it won’t show right away, but at some point, it will.

•  You actually asked me this question a few days ago, so I guess it’s only fair I return the favor: what does voting represent to you?

Voting for me is just a small gesture that we make to participate in transforming our community, city, and our country as a whole into a better place. An analogy I love about voting is that it’s like public transport, not marriage. We are not waiting for “the one”. We are getting on a bus. If there isn’t one going directly to our destination, we don’t just sulk and not do anything. We take the one that goes closest to where we want to be.

Many of us made resolutions at the start of 2020 that we can’t go through with anymore. I know you have thought at least once during this pandemic that, once this situation is over, you’ll make a change and do everything you weren’t able to do during this time. Why don’t we start right now instead? Why don’t we make not only a change in our individual lives but one in the life of our communities as well? Let’s vote then, no matter whether we’ll be disappointed by the result or not. After all, you miss all the shots that you don’t take.

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