Mayflower Compact

This painting shows the Pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact aboard the Mayflower in November 1620. At Tuesday’s special election, Mashpee voters will have the opportunity to engage in the kind of democratic self-governance pioneered by the Compact.

Vote! Democracy is the heart of America. Even before the Second Continental Congress declared independence in 1776, American militia companies were electing their own officers.

The ur-moment, of course, came right at the start—in November 1620 in the waters off what is now Provincetown, when the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact, a way of governing their new settlement by majority rule.

The US Constitution, in its first 67 words, states that the members of the House of Representatives, one of the two parts of Congress, will be chosen by “Electors” in the various states, taking care to specify that these voters need meet only the minimum requirements to participate in the election of “the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature”—in other words, the lowest legal bar possible.

In 1913 the United States shifted to direct popular election of US senators. Now some are calling for direct popular election of the president.

Democracy pervades the United States: not only on the national level, but in the states and in individual communities such as Mashpee.

Next Tuesday, between 7 AM and 8 PM at Parish of Christ the King on Jobs Fishing Road, Mashpee voters will have a chance to engage in direct democracy.

They will choose an individual to serve as one of five members of the town’s top board, the board of selectmen.

The individual will serve out the remainder of John Cahalane’s term, which extends into next May.

Mr. Cahalane, a longtime selectman, died in June.

Robert F. Bono, Elana C. Doyle, Michael R. Richardson and David W. Weeden are running for the seat.

The election has drawn a lot of interest in town. Mashpee TV showcased the candidates in a September 18 program and televised a forum Wednesday, September 25. Local media such as this newspaper have been covering the election and running letters to the editor about the candidates.

The candidates have made themselves available to voters and likely will be standing outside Christ the King next Tuesday for any residents with last-minute questions.

Following the election, the town will have a chance to try out whichever individual gets the most votes as a selectman for about eight months.

Will that individual take thoughtful stands? Will the individual listen attentively to members of the public? Will he or she do the homework needed to fully understand the matters that the board is voting on?

If so, should the person decide to run next spring for a full three-year term on the board, the people of Mashpee would do well to reelect that individual.

For now, the job of each registered voter in town is to evaluate the candidates and to make the best choice on Tuesday.

Many Mashpee residents, however, will evade their responsibility. They won’t bother voting.

A good number of those residents, however, are sure to appear at the polls on November 3, 2020, to cast their votes in the pending presidential election.

The national election obviously deserves participation from Mashpee voters.

But the town’s voters should not shortchange Tuesday’s local election, even though it is for “only” one eight-month term on the board of selectmen.

An activist phrase coined several decades ago called on people to “think globally, but act locally.” Most individuals can have a far greater impact on their local community than on the nation as a whole.

Events such as September 20’s “climate strikes” may make for good visuals.

But at the end of the day, what matters are the decisions made and policies enacted by elected representatives over time.

Will Mashpee pursue the best course of action on issues confronting the community, such as the effect of wastewater on the town’s estuaries and ponds? Or will the town allow problems to fester, to hang on, to the detriment of everyone in town?

It all comes back to the individuals whom the town chooses as leaders.

On Tuesday, in our American democracy, Mashpee voters get to make that choice. Do it!

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