I really enjoy voting. I enjoy the process — going to my local polling place on election day, standing in line with other voters, seeing the volunteers, buying a treat from whatever local school or church or charity group has set up a table outside the polling place. It makes me feel connected to the community. It makes me feel all citizeny. It makes me feel patriotic.
But this year I’m not doing it. Oh, I’m voting. In fact, I’ve already voted. I voted a couple of weeks ago. This year I voted by absentee ballot. Why the change? Curiosity. I wanted to see what it was like. I’ve never voted with an absentee ballot before.
Here are some of the things I discovered about voting absentee. First, it’s dead easy. The ballot comes right to your door, you open it, fill it out, follow the instructions, send it back in. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. You can do it while drinking your morning coffee. You can do it in your pajamas. Of course, you can go to your local polling place in your pajamas too, if you want — it’s a free country.
Second, I feel like I did a better job of voting. When I vote in person there are usually some candidates for local office that are complete cyphers to me. I’ve no idea who they are or what they stand for. Offices like the Public Hospital Board or the Soil and Agriculture Commission. I didn’t even know there was a Soil and Agriculture Commission. But with a ballot in front of me and a computer at hand, I was able to make a more informed vote for the Soil and Agriculture Commission (I voted for the former nun — you can never go very wrong voting for a former nun; they have a moral center that informs their decisions, but they also have whatever doubts that sparked them to jack the wimple).
Third, I learned the Secretary of State is pretty damned anal compulsive when it comes to filling out the ballot. You have to use a black ink pen. No blue ink, no green ink, and sure as hell no red ink (what, are you some sort of commie?). Also, you have to fill in the oval completely. No check marks, no Xs, no smiley faces (this ain’t high school). You fail to follow the instructions, your vote gets scrapped.
Finally, I learned that vote security is fairly tight. After you fill out the ballot, you put it in an envelope labeled Secrecy Envelope, and seal the envelope. The Secrecy Envelope is then placed in an Affidavit Envelope, which you have to sign and date and seal that as well. The Affidavit Envelope is then placed in the Return Envelope, which also has to be sealed. All of these envelopes are the old-fashioned lick-and-seal type, not the fancy new remove-a-strip-and-press type. If you want to vote Absentee, you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of saliva.
Drop the envelope in the mail, and you’ve done your civic duty. It’s not as viscerally fulfilling as going to your polling place and doing it (and by ‘it’ I mean voting) in the privacy of the voting booth, but it’s really that easy. So why do so few people do it?
In Iowa, during presidential election years, about 74% of registered voters actually vote. That’s not great, but it’s almost 15% higher than the national average. Voter participation drops rather dramatically in midterm elections. Only about 54% of registered Iowans vote, which is still better than the national average of around 38%. Only a third to a half of all registered voters cast a ballot in the midterm elections. That’s pretty damned pathetic.
Sure, election campaigns are frustrating and annoying. I totally get that. Sure, attack advertising turns off voters. And sure, we’ll all be glad when we don’t have to see another campaign advert on television. And sure, we’ll all be glad when the election is over. But will we be glad about the result?
Here’s the thing: if you don’t vote, you suck. I don’t care how discouraged you are — if you don’t vote, you suck. I don’t care what your reasons are for not voting — if you don’t vote, you suck. You suck as a citizen. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to call yourself a patriot. If you don’t vote, you deserve whatever shitty government you get. If you don’t vote, then fuck you in the neck.
It’s SO easy to vote. So easy, and so important. And if you can’t be bothered to vote, then you suck. It’s that simple. Don’t suck. Go vote.
I have already voted as well. I always vote absentee. Never know where they are going to have the voting booths in this town, so I take the booth out of the equation. usually, it is a case of not knowing quite where I will be come election day. But anymore, they tend to move the voting booths every time they hold elections.
I miss those really old, massive, mechanical voting machines — the ones where you pulled a big lever and the curtain closed behind you, then you had to flick smaller levers for each candidate. They made such a nice, solid CLICK. That was a really satisfying voting experience.
I’ve voted absentee for years, but in Northern California we don’t get a Secrecy envelope… and here we thought we were sooooo progressive with our one layer of spit and glue. Dang you Iowans with your extra layer of security!
Getting an “I Voted!” sticker is the only thing I truly miss about not going to my local polling station.
And I totally agree that if you don’t vote, you suck (and you don’t get to complain). Not only is it easy peasy, but for me, it’d be like spitting in the eyes of the suffragettes who made it their mission to afford me the right to have my voice heard. I don’t take their sacrifices lightly, and neither should any woman. So go vote… or Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s ghost will come kick your sorry ass!!
It wasn’t just a secrecy envelope; it was a SECRECY envelope. Very official. I felt like I had to slide my ballot inside when nobody was looking. Just in case.
And yeah, no “I Voted” sticker. They really should include one of those with the ballots. Or two of them — one for the day you actually voted and one for election day.
Sometimes you genuinely don’t want any of the options presented. Voting randomly seems no more citizen-minded than not voting. Personally I lean towards spoiling a ballot in those situations, but without a “none of the above” option I can entirely understand why otherwise opinionated people might choose not to vote…
Even with two unfortunate choices, there’s still one candidate who would be somewhat less awful. I mean, if you’ve really looked at both of them enough to know you don’t want either of them in office, you’ve probably looked at them closely enough to figure out which would do less damage.
The thing is, choosing not to choose is still, in effect, a choice for whoever wins. Somebody is going to win. The candidates don’t give a rat’s ass if only three people vote, so long as they’re the one who gets two of those votes.
So no, I have to disagree with you. People who choose NOT to vote are simply abandoning any claim to good citizenship. I don’t like saying that, because I have friends and family who likely won’t vote. In that regard, they suck. Just my opinion.
If you’re getting even 38% of your registered voters out to cast ballots, count your blessings. Around my part of the country (SE TX), we think there’s been a huge turnout if less than 15% vote. And that would be for a national election. Local elections usually garner less than 10% of the registered voters, and those who don’t vote have more excuses for simply not wanting to get up off their lazy asses to go do it than Carter has little liver pills.
The Number One excuse around these parts for not voting is that their votes don’t count. Well, that ain’t true. There are an awful lot of elected officials around here that are far more interested in their own political aspirations and personal special interests than they are in meeting the needs of their communities or satisfying the will of the people. However, in order to “fire” them by voting them out of office, enough voters have to cast ballots to override these politicians neighbors, friends and relative who perpetuate their political existence by voting. It’s also the primary reason why trying to get fresh faces with fresh ideas for our county and the communities within it is almost a pipe-dream.
Oh, yeah, I vote. Every single time there is an election. Always have; always will.
The worst candidates encourage voter apathy. It’s just easier than voter suppression, which is also effective but requires more work.
Have you ever noticed those who cry the loudest alleging corruption, cronyism and nepotism, are usually the same ones who admit they don’t vote? And how very upset they get when they get accused of perpetuating that alleged corruption, cronyism and nepotism by not voting …
How ironic that they tell you clearly to use a black ink pen yet their illustration clearly shows the voter using a pencil…
Love that phrase “jack the wimple” A friend who’s a former nun will love that term…
And thanks, as always, for the nudge, the excellent writing, and the humor.
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That made me chuckle too!
Beckett darlin’, I am SO embarrassed that I didn’t even notice the pencil in the illustration. But that’s hilarious.
A lot of our county offices were unopposed. I almost wrote in my 90 year old dad as Recorder of Deeds, (a job I always thought really belonged to Santa Claus and/or St Peter).
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