Call him a 'ballot' singer Voting: A Reisterstown songwriter pens compositions that urge listeners to exercise an important civic responsibility by voting in elections.

June 13, 1996|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

It's an election year, and Patrick Michael Simpson is back, leading the cheers for voting.

But it's a tough sell in a country whose citizens -- particularly young people -- all too often exercise their right not to vote, Simpson concedes. So what can he do about it?

A prolific songwriter, Simpson, 44, who won notice as Baltimore's "Singing Cabbie" in the 1970s and 1980s, believes in music's power to convey messages. He is trying to strike a spark with three of his many "voting songs" that focus on the civic duty of voting -- and the consequences of not voting.

The Reisterstown resident said he hopes radio stations will play his recorded songs as public service messages.

He labels himself "a liberal Democrat," but Simpson's message is nonpartisan. His aim is for all eligible voters to exercise their franchise in every election -- and to do so thoughtfully.

"Just voting is not civic responsibility; educated voting is civic responsibility. I believe the main thing that's wrong with the country is that people aren't voting," said Simpson, a home-improvement contractor.

The highest recent national turnout was the Kennedy-Nixon race of 1960, when 62.77 percent of the electorate voted. Subsequent turnouts fell, to a low of 50.10 percent in 1988, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The Clinton-Bush-Perot contest in 1992 drew 55.23 percent of Americans of voting age.

Marylanders have voted in similar proportions in presidential elections.

In the first of his recorded songs, "American Revolution," Simpson cries out for the people to "take control of their destiny" by voting. In "Didn't We Leave it Up to You?" he laments the consequences of voter apathy.

"The single biggest reason is that there's no one to stand up for the vote. The political process has broken it down. We leave it to [elected politicians], and they haven't done it. People are turned off by sound bites," he said.

The third song, "Who Should Be President of America?" calls on people to "be responsible and make a stand. To speak my mind, with my vote in hand. I was checkin' out the polls, listening to the issues, trying to decide, who should be president of America?"

Simpson who plans to start a newsletter called Voting Today, wrote in a prototype, "There will always be politics, but without civics we leave our future in someone else's hands. Political responsibility is a dedication to party influence and party line. Your vote is accepted as a support to that party line. Civics, on the other hand, is the science of dealing with the rights and duties of citizens."

Civic responsibility is a dedication to the educated vote, he said.

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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