TAMPA, Florida - Occupy Tampa has spent more than two months Downtown protesting economic inequity and money's role in politics. But they've left themselves open to criticisms of hypocrisy with a less-than-stellar record of participation in the democratic process.
The 10 News Investigators checked the public voting records of some of Occupy Tampa's most active participants. The sample size: the 22 individuals who have been arrested a total of 31 times since Oct. 21, many for sleeping in public parks.
While ballots are secret, whether a Floridian votes in specific elections is public information, and fewer than half of the 22 protesters had voted in any election the last four years.
Of the 22:
- Only 14 were registered to vote.
- Only 7 voted in the 2008 presidential general election.
- Only 4 voted in the 2008 presidential primary election.
- Only 3 voted in the 2010 state election, which included gubernatorial & U.S. senate races.
- Only 2 voted in any recent municipal elections.
"There's no accountability in government. There's no answering to the people," said William Joseph McClelland, a protester from New Port Richey who admitted he wasn't registered to vote.
McClelland says he suspects most Occupy protesters haven't voted because they had no faith in the system.
"My impression is your vote is never counted. I can't buy a congressman," he said.
McClelland says the Occupy movement has encouraged him about the direction the country is going and he hopes it sparks a new wave of politicians who will listen to the people, not corporations. He also plans to now register to vote.
"The situation we're in as a country is partly the fault of the American people falling asleep at the wheel and not using their democratic system the way they should be," said fellow Occupy Tampa protester Becky Rubright.
Rubright, 38, was the only protester arrested who had voted in 2008, 2010, and in recent municipal elections (Tampa, 2011). She says she's out at Downtown's Curtis Hixon Park every day to push others to exercise their democratic right to vote.
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