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.