Give Up the Vote!

*A warning, before we begin.  In this post, I acknowledge the existence of political opinions.  I go so far as to state my preferred party.  I have written nothing with ill will in mind for people of opposing viewpoints, and this post isn’t about ideological issues, it is about the act of voting.  If you are the sensitive type who might get upset over this little, not unkind, somewhat funny, although politically-themed post, I suggest you stop reading now and go back to Facebook.  Thank you.*

As this year’s Presidential horse race drags into its final weeks, I’ve done some hard thinking about whom to vote for.  Actually, my thoughts haven’t centered so much about which candidate to choose, but if I should cast any vote for President at all.

Given that I don’t live in a swing state, really, what’s the point?

I live in a state that has already been colored red, no matter what my vote would be.  I’m not alone – millions of other citizens live in states that have already been ‘called’ for a candidate, before a single ballot has been cast.  Look at this map, with all those Electoral votes carved in stone, weeks before election day…

*courtesy of http://www.270towin.com

For some of us living in these predetermined states, red or blue, we may also have the added dissatisfaction of knowing that our states’ Electoral College votes are going to be cast for a candidate we oppose.  By taking a look at this map, it seems like the staunch Republicans of Oregon and California, as well as the bleeding-heart Democrats of Texas and Louisiana might as well stay home and stare at the walls for all the value their votes will give to the outcome of the Presidential race of 2012.

When living in a permanently-opposite-colored state, voting for President takes on the futility of spitting into the wind.  I felt the blowback when I cast my votes for Gore and Kerry while living here in Georgia.  (My belated congratulations to my Republican friends, by the way.) But it’s still taken me this many election cycles to learn that a blue vote for President isn’t worth anything in this red state. (Again, my congratulations to my Republican friends.)

For red-living-in-blue-state or blue-living-in-red-state citizens, are our ‘votes’ for President a sham, an illusion of being given a choice when really, no choice exists?

Oh, if only we lived in a contested state like Florida or Ohio, where we would be wooed by both candidates with vicious attack ads and courted with robo-calls, validating our value as voting citizens.

           

*courtesy of addictinginfo.org and go.bloomberg.com

It’s grim when you find yourself wishing for your state to become attack-ad worthy.

I’m sure some of you will read this and wish to remind me that voting is a privilege, but I need no reminding.  I grew up in a household where my parents consistently demonstrated the importance of casting one’s ballot.  My hometown played a part, too, with a truck that was driven through the streets on election day, piping this announcement:  ‘TODAY IS ELECTION DAY! GO TO THE POLLS AND VOTE!  VOTE FOR THE CANDIDATE OF YOUR CHOICE, BUT VOTE!’  (It still rings in my ears every time I go to the polls…)  Also, as a woman, I don’t take lightly the fact that a century ago, I wouldn’t be having an existential voting crisis at all because I wouldn’t have had the right to vote, period.  

It is because I take voting seriously that I am considering choosing No One for President this year.

*courtesy of http://www.buttonsonline.com

The truth of it is, neither President Romney or President Obama will care about your day-to-day wellbeing.  At all.  We all scratch and fight and gnash our teeth over whom the Commander in Chief will be, but the fact remains that they are not placed in office to make our lives better.  We’ve somehow morphed the Office of President into a big, national Santa Claus who runs everything in the country and gives you everything that you want.  Disabuse yourself of that notion.  The Chief Executive has some power, needs to be savvy in representing our country to the world, and can veto laws placed on his desk.  But it is in Congress where the laws that affect us are voted up or down.  If you want to get riled up about something, get riled up about voting people into Congress who will work effectively.

Here’s where the good news comes in.  Those of us who are shut out of the Presidential election can still put the power of our votes to use.  State Senators and Representatives are elected by direct popular vote, and so are the members of the United States Congress.  On an even smaller, local level, our municipalities have Mayors, School Boards, and (in my case) even a CEO for the county.  All of these elections are determined by counting every vote, Republican and Democrat, and the candidate with the most votes wins.  One vote, one voice.

 *courtesy of Getty Images

Do you get as excited and passionate about electing a Mayor for your town as you do about who wins the White House?  Does choosing a City Council member make your blood boil with the same intensity that moves you to put up divisive comments on Facebook about your ideological ‘opponent’ in the Presidential race?  Get as angry or as joyous as you will, but the person sworn into office on January 20, 2013 will not care less about your trash pick-up problems or the way the road into your subdivision is maintained, or that your School Board is riddled with corruption.

I’m as guilty as anyone for falling into the four-year-frenzy sort of political thinking.  I don’t know the names of my State Congress members.  I can’t recall the name of my own Mayor.  I wouldn’t be able pick out our School Board members from a police lineup.  (And where I live, School Board members show up in police lineups more often than you’d think.)

So, maybe instead of all of us working ourselves into a frenzy of online screaming matches every four years, we should instead put that energy towards being informed about the smaller things – our City Council members, our State Senators, and the specific referendum votes that show up on our ballots.  We can become more powerful voters when we vote directly – one vote, one voice – for people we believe can make an impact where we live.

I’m not suggesting that local politics can’t be just as dirty and vicious and perhaps as predetermined as national races.  And I’m not dismissing the importance of voting into office a competent, intelligent person for President.  But for those of us feeling useless and voiceless in the red/blue or blue/red voting quandary in Presidential races, it can help to think smaller and to remind ourselves that our voices can echo much larger on the local scene than they can nationally.

 *courtesy of Getty Images

Tip o’Neill was right – all politics are local.  So find out if that person running for your State Representative is into letting a man marry his dog, or if that person you chose for the City Council is more fond of hearing the sound of his/her voice than they are of moving the business of your city along smoothly.

And if you live in any of the taupe-colored states above, congratulations on being the most wanted voters in the nation.  While you’re getting asked to the Presidential dance, I will choose to sit this one out, while getting info on the two men running for my district’s State House seat.

If you wish to comment on this post, please do it below where it says, ‘Leave a Reply’ – keeping in mind that screaming matches get us nowhere.

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6 thoughts on “Give Up the Vote!

  1. You very funnily described one of the major problems with our voting system – the electoral college. In this electronic day and age, I’m not sure I understand why we are using this system instead of a popular vote scenario. I wish I had the energy for a screaming match about that issue, but I’m sure there’s at least one political science nerd who will outshout me.

    • Ah, yes the screaming match – America’s favorite type of political discussion! I’m with you on the electoral college, and I’m with you about being too tired to scream at anyone about it…

  2. Hey – like your blog.
    Most – all? – electoral systems have some problem.
    I’d be keen on individual registration (unlike the household system in the UK) and having to show ID. Could be eased in – but seems sensible.

    • I didn’t realize the UK had a different voter registration system. I have a friend who lived in Britain for a while and she said that candidates don’t campaign for nearly as long as US candidates do (it seems endless, really, it does), and that attack ads are illegal. I’m jealous.

      • It’s individual registration in Northern Ireland, but not the rest of the UK – which leaves it open to fraud in various cities around the country – London, Slough I think, Leicester, etc.

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