Service of Executing Your Franchise

November 6th, 2014

Categories: Inertia, Vote

vote here today

The gymnasium in which I voted this week was filled with everything but voters. On the perimeter of the giant space were many long tables representing election districts—each had three poll workers–and toward the center were desks with pens to fill out ballots and a few scanners against one wall. I mentioned the dearth of voters to the poll worker at the scanner stations. She told me I’d just missed a slew of voters and that at one scanner alone, she bet that there were at least 60 ballots.

While that might be a hefty number at 9 a.m. in a small town, I voted in midtown Manhattan. I was used to meeting my neighbors in lines, short and long. There were none.

empty voting boothThings weren’t much different in Ohio, according to Fox 8 News in Cleveland. The station reported unofficial estimates of 40 percent of registered voters who cast votes this election in the Buckeye State.

On Google I saw a Star-Ledger headline: “NJ’s voter turnout in 2014 midterm elections may be record low, early figures show.” The BurlingtonFreePress.com: “Vermont hits record low voter turnout.”

Daniel Nussbaum on Brietbart.com predicted for California the lowest voter turnout “in the modern era.”

whinerI’m tired of hearing “there’s nobody I like” or “it doesn’t matter whether or not I vote.” If all these powerless people got together imagine the impact they might have!

Speaking of inertia, Staten Island voters picked as their US Representative a fellow who is under indictment for tax fraud. It will be his third term. If you didn’t like his opponent or would rather eat glass than vote for a member of another political party, perhaps your Uncle Fred would be a better choice? To write in a name in New York you color in “other” in the appropriate section and write in the name of your candidate. No doubt it’s just as easy in other states.

I wonder how many of the people who complain about their town, city, state or country vote. I get the feeling that those who bother are either extremists, naturalized citizens who know what it’s like to live in a place where they can’t vote and those whose family tradition recognizes the importance.

So much money is spent on the process already that clearly throwing more of it to turnaround apathy won’t jumpstart voters.

Was my polling place a fluke? What will it take to energize and engage citizens here? In whose interest is it when people don’t vote?

excited people

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10 Responses to “Service of Executing Your Franchise”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: “We ALWAYS vote; it gives us the right to complain!”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna,

    My thoughts precisely.

  3. Jeremiah Said:

    That most famous of all buffoons, Candide, truly believed that Earth was “the best of all possible worlds.” If he were right, I would vehemently agree with you that every citizen should exercise his franchise at all times. Unfortunately, as Voltaire brilliantly demonstrated, he was wrong.

    I vote in a community like New York City (and, now, regrettably most of the rest of the country). One party utterly dominates, and there is no doubt at all about who is going to win local elections. When there is, I vote.

    In national and statewide elections, I vote when there is a choice. In 2008, frightened by the idiocy of Sarah Palen, I voted for Obama. It was one of the worst mistakes I have ever made, as Senator McCain is still alive and would have made a far better Chief Executive. In 2012, I felt I could neither vote for Mitt Romney because of his religious beliefs nor President Obama because of his evident incompetence. I did not vote. In 2014, it was blatantly obvious that our corrupt and devious governor was unbeatable. I did not vote.

    Lastly, I have lived long enough, travelled and read enough, to no longer accept, unquestionably, that democracy, at least as we practice it, is the best of all possible political systems. It may be in an ideal world, but ours certainly is not that.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Jeremiah,

    In reading this and previous comments of yours I can tell that you are extremely smart, well educated and just the kind of person this country needs to help it practice democracy as it should be.

    I think it’s tragic that you feel you can’t vote for at least some of the candidates on a ballot and leave blank the ones that are a waste or write in the name of someone great. If your governor’s opponent is not a crook and if the person supports most of your views, even if you and he/she don’t agree 100 percent on every issue, isn’t there value in letting the incumbent–you are sure can’t lose–know that you, and millions like you, are not enthralled?

    Based on New York where I live, and no doubt in plenty of other states, there are people from both parties who have been governor. If Republicans stayed home in this blue state, it would never have happened.

    I feel strongly about what I just wrote and also figure that you must think that Candide had people like me in mind.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    Isn’t voting a quintessential part of a democracy? Perhaps we should make voting mandatory and at the same time modernize the tabulating.

    In the furthest reaches of the Brazilian Amazon voting results are immediately available. Nevertheless all disclaimers of interest in voting or the dismissal of having any impact are simply spoiled whining of an ill-informed and lazy population which takes for granted that a way of life that has been rendered very fragile today will be maintained ad infinitum and without their participation. Such attitudes are foolhardy, and even delusional. Furthermore they make it ludicrous to complain about the status quo of our existence.

    I agree that many of those who are anxious to vote fall into the 3 categories you list. However, there are still a number of concerned citizens without breaking down statistics by age, gender, and origin that still have a slightly less narcissistic vision. The incessant barrages of incredibly annoying and even intimidating request for money to be wasted on juvenile publicity, parties, hats and other ephemera can possibly account for some alienation of thinking voters. These requests fail to show commonsense, consideration, taste or judgment about the purpose of such contributions.

    It is certain that if our voting patterns continue as is, the significance of our participation in global activities will be threatened and undermined. There seems to be a need for a reality check.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I should have asked you to write this post. You are far more articulate and thoughtful than I was. The waste of money on the hoopla and excessive advertising required of candidates is criminal. Voters who brush off unethical behavior either by voting for or not voting against candidates with fists in cookie jars and worse simply because they heard their commercials more often therefore recognizing a name are discouraging.

    The impact of the lack of participation on Tuesday had such an impact on me that I decided to write about this topic instead of one I’d already planned for today. The citizenry is passive aggressive in its failure to participate and then whine after the fact.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Nearly 500 voters showed up at my ED Tuesday, some 10 plus percent higher than the national average.

    All too many stay away from the polls, offering a multitude of lame excuses, such as “it’s a shoo in,” to “they’re all crooks.” Others adopt a patrician air while implying their superiority/lack of interest in the contests at hand.

    Now there a new, and totally avoidable deterrent to voting, which forces voters to color in tiny ovals before submitting a sheet to a machine which may reject the votes, causing a repeat of a long and boring procedure. Instead of taking seconds, the voter must invest minutes. This causes confusion, lack of privacy and unnecessary delays.

    So how many of us are planning to write their assemblyman or state senator to demand these modern dinosaurs be replaced by working machines? How many of us know who our state representatives are?

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Your uplifting statistics give us all hope. Congrats!

    I thought of another excuse I’ve heard for not voting: “I don’t want to go on jury duty and registering to vote will get me on the list.” I think that the jury pool is also taken from driving license stats and maybe even tax forms so folks who want to duck this civic duty may be doomed.

    The tiny ovals are pathetic, for sure. I also wonder, since my ballot had candidates on one side and proposals on the other, how both sides of my ballot were scanned when the paper goes in the scenner on one side, only.

    The dark ages method of voting is a head-scratcher for sure. For anyone who wants to find out who their state representative is, log into http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep?ZIP, type in your zip code and voila!

  9. DManzaluni Said:

    We had practically the opposite experience recently when given the chance to reverse Culloden and separate off from those so’ of the border.

  10. jeanne Byington Said:

    DManzaluni,

    You speak of a country with passionate, educated people for whom issues bigger than themselves matter. Would we learn something from them we’d be better off. For so many here, comfort (I can’t fit in the time to vote) + the almighty dollar rule.

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