Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vote Early and Vote Often

For the past 18 years I’ve been an absentee ballot voter in California.  I’ve been active (not absent) having not missed voting in any election.  I just don’t schlep out to do it.  In 1994 I went to my assigned polling station with my sample ballot that had my name and all of my information on it which would theoretically help find the listing in the books used to verify identity.  I spent 15 minutes with the poll worker who still couldn’t find my name…even with my finger pointing right at it.  Finally ‘verified’ I was handed the ballot with the comment:  “One of them Liber ones...not a normal one.”  California has separate ballots by party and there were only a handful of non major party ballots at the precinct.  The ballot itself has so many issues that even filling it in from the sample ballot took some time...and many folks just read it in the moment taking forever to vote.  It seemed (and has actually been) much easier to get the ballot it in the mail, research the issues/candidates, fill it in and mail it back at my leisure.  I haven’t been back.

A dear friend decries my decision – saying I’ve lost an essential patriotic duty for mere convenience.   I enjoyed the ritual in 1984, but not since.  I do savor the election night reveal of the ‘winners.’  I just don’t need to be hassled to exercise my rights.  I further justify my absentee status when the votes tallies are close I know the deciding votes become those in the absentee pile.  This fuels my theatrical side: the idea that my Libertarian vote might be deciding the whole election!  Well, it’s never quite happened, but the illusion is amusing nonetheless.
Last week I received my June 5 California primary ballot in the mail.  I continue to own property in Los Angeles and have plenty of California ties despite working in Minnesota.  Here I’m active with Minnesotans United for All Families which is a huge coalition of individuals, nonprofits, faith communities and businesses that have come together to fight against an Initiative that would rewrite the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

My dilemma personifies many of the challenges that voters face who don’t have 2 ballots to decide between.  In California there’s going to be a huge statewide initiative in November on raising the sales tax.  Again.  Locally there’s a number of attempts to raise fees, taxes and other costs on homeowners.  My water & sewer bills have quadrupled under the current mayor – none of which I can pass along to tenants.  My fiscal well being is dependent on how those issues resolve – and so participating in that election is very much in my interests.  Here in Minnesota the state has the opportunity to become the first (after 31 others haven’t) to have a popular vote recorded that supports the concept of gay people getting married.  I have a passionate investment in seeing that happen having lived through Proposition 8.

In choosing to vote for a particular candidate for President, each voter always has to make some sacrifices.  Rarely is there a candidate who we can fully align with.  Gary Johnson received the Libertarian nomination for President a few weeks ago at the party convention.  (This of course is ironic given that the largest state (CA) with the largest number of Libertarian registered voters won’t vote for candidates until this upcoming primary.)  He wasn’t the candidate that I had been supporting, but he’ll get my vote…maybe even two! 
My choice between financial and non-financial issues is stark because it’s not compromising as with a candidate, it’s prioritizing.*  Most of the time we don’t have that luxury.  Each area is important and deserves to have my voice heard.  Coin toss?  Perhaps I should just move to Chicago where it is permissible to vote early and vote often!
(*Note that for this philosophical argument I’m excluding the actual voting regulations!)

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