I started to vote today. I should be done later this week.
I don’t have to stand in a line out in the rain or sun or snow.
I don’t have to show my photo ID.
I don’t have to hide behind a curtain.
I don’t have to use a secret card or a machine.
I don’t have to run a gauntlet of electioneers handing out stickers and pamphlets, or trip over signs stuck in the grass.
I don’t have to bring a “cheat sheet” so I would remember who to vote for.
I started to vote today. It will take a week, I’m guessing, to finish. A little bit each day, over lunch, after dinner, bit by bit. It’s a long ballot (though shorter than most), so I’ll just take my time..
I opened my ballot and started working at the top. Read the instructions. Looked at the first office — “Governor, State of Michigan” — and at the candidates. Check. “Senator”. Check. On and on.
These were the easy questions. I’ve been pummeled by their commercials and mailings and emails and the commentaries of the media for over a year. These votes were settled in my mind a long time ago.
But then there’s the murky part of the ballot — the “down-ballot” votes. These are another story. Nobody talked about these choices. And the candidates haven’t got the money to campaign. So “down-ballot” questions are all new — Trustee at the community college, Regent at the university, school board, appellate court judge, … Who are these people? And the proposals — a school millage and two (two?) proposals about wolf hunting. What is this about?
No problem. I can just turn to the internet and look them up. Each office, each candidate, each “candidate forum”, each questionnaire. When someone looks interesting, I can search further until I am satisfied. Then, confident that I’ve done my homework and that I’m as informed as I could be, I’ll check the box.
So it goes. Maybe there’ll be a candidate or an office or a proposal that I have a question about. No problem — I’ll contact the candidate and ask. I’ll talk to my friends and neighbors and co-workers and the guys at the bar or at the diner. Then I’ll decide and check the box.
When the last box is checked, I’ll make a copy of the ballot so I can remember how I voted. Then I’ll put a stamp on my ballot and drop it in the mailbox. My civic duty is done, my opinion is expressed, my decisions are made.
In about a month, I’ll find out who won and who lost.
That doesn’t sound much like the frenzy that we are told surrounds ELECTION DAY, does it? No, instead it sounds downright civil. The ballot showed up in my mailbox on Saturday. I have 6 weeks to fill it out and return it. No pressure, no hurry, no lost work time or school time. It sounds like the act of voting fits into my schedule, and allows me to be an informed voter making thoughtful choices.
It sounds like voting is important. Like voting matters.
So … why do I have to give a reason for approaching my civic duty thoughtfully and patiently and carefully? Isn’t that reason enough?
No, it isn’t. Here in Michigan, this thoughtful approach is my reward for growing older — anyone over the age of 60 gets this privilege. Under 60? Sorry, you have to stand in line, between the hours of 7am and 7pm, on a work day. You have to hope they have enough ballots and enough booths. You have to hope the poll workers can find your name and that your ID has the right photo. You have to sign the form, all under the watchful gaze of some party members — poll watchers intent on catching the smallest mistake.
Or you have to prove that you’re deserving of taking a thoughtful approach to voting — there are only 6 ways to earn this right:
* Be over 60 years old
* Be in jail
* Be physically unable to get to a polling place
* Be religiously opposed to going to a polling place (which religions are those?)
* Be a worker at a different polling place from your own
* Be out of town on election day
I would think you could add another reason: “I want to take my time, do my research and make an informed choice.” But, no, that’s not a good enough reason.
It’s election month. Time to start voting.