Posts Tagged ‘Voting’

Today I took Anderson with me to drop off my ballot and that of my daughter’s. In Oregon, all voting is done by mail so there’s no going to the polls on election day. As my regular readers know, I homeschool Anderson who is in first grade. We’ve been talking about elections and the duties of the President and other government issues. With a first grader, it’s just a “brushing” of the subject, not at all in depth. It’s not in the curriculum but I wanted him to start getting the information; to start to be award of the world around him; to get the idea that voting and participating in his government is a duty.

I don’t know what he thought about it. We got to the drop off point (a library) before they opened so we waited outside along with a growing crowd. When we arrived there were about six other people waiting to turn in their ballot. By the time the doors opened about ten minutes later, there were at least forty people waiting with ballot in hand. I think he got the idea that it was something important. He had watched me fill out my ballot just minutes before we arrived at the library then he saw everyone waiting and then dropping their ballot in the box. His eyes were big. I think ge understood that it was an important thing to do.

That’s all I can do. I can talk to him. I can expose him to the process. His parents don’t watch TV news or discuss politics or even the process. I don’t think his father is even registered to vote. But I can show him; tell him; take him. And then I can hope that it takes!

(I don’t normally post twice in one day but this was on my mind and I figured I would put it out there to get it out of my mind.)

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I remember being in middle school and learning about the political process and about voting.  We watched films about how to be involved and how important it was to get people to vote.  In more than one of the films, I saw volunteers driving people to the polling booths to vote.  That has stayed with me for over forty years.

I remember when I was in high school and close to voting age. As I got closer and closer to 18, I got more and more excited about voting.  And once I turned 18 I voted in person in every single election.  I did notice that not everyone was as enthusiastic as I was about voting and about getting out the vote.  As the years passed, it was more and more disappointing to see that there wasn’t a big push to help those that needed help getting to the polls or to get people registered to vote.

At one time, when my kids were in elementary school, their school district was involved in a bond measure.  We got everyone involved.  The kids went door to door passing out leaflets about the bond measure and talked about what it would mean to them personally if the bond measure passed.  I was willingly a part of the team that made phone calls in the evenings to inform people about the bond measure and what it would mean to the school district.  Then we called to remind people to vote in the coming days and then on election day we called again to see if people had voted and if they could not get to their polling place we sent someone to their home to pick them up and give them a ride.  I loved that campaign and I felt that I had made a difference when our bond measure passed.

Sadly, it just doesn’t happen anymore. There have been very few times that I’ve seen a push for votes.  A real push…the kind where you call people and see if they need help getting to the polls.  The kind where you answer phones and questions about where a person’s polling place is.  I think that it has a direct effect on people voting.

Some years ago, I moved to Oregon where there is no voting in person.  It is all done by mail.  You register by mail.  You get your ballot in the mail and you return it in the mail.  It’s not the same.  I just don’t feel invested in the system when I cannot physically vote at a polling place.  I see the benefits of voting by mail but I don’t feel like it is for me.  In most cases I don’t even make up my mind about who or what I will vote for until the day before the election.  I can’t see filling out my ballot weeks before the election and then returning it.  In fact, I don’t mail anything.  I really don’t like and don’t trust the U.S. Postal Service so I don’t use it.  I wouldn’t trust them with my ballot.  And then there is the part where I would have to remember to actually mail it in time.

It’s not the same.  It just isn’t.  And in this case, I think it is sad that things are changing.  I think it is sad that we don’t have that one on one personal experience of voting our ballot or of participating in the process and helping others to participate in it.

It’s not the same.

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I haven’t missed voting in an election since I registered in 1974 at age 18. The first election I voted in was my state’s (California) Gubernatorial election when we (myself included) elected Gerry Brown, Jr. in June of 1974. To me, voting is a crucial right; one that I hate to waste, so I dutifully vote in every election.

One year, when I was doing volunteer work for MALDEF* and I had to drive an hour to my assignment on election day. I asked that I be allowed to vote first then make the drive. I was the first one in the door at my precinct that day. I had to drive from northern Los Angeles County to Orange County for my poll watching duties. I got to Orange County in time to go off to the first on a long list of precincts where problems had been reported. My job was to watch the precinct, mostly from the outside, and make sure there were no irregularities. In a few instances, we were asked to watch from inside (in precincts where problems had been reported during previous elections). What were we watching for? Voting irregularities. In some precincts voters had reported that they had been denied a ballot, even though they were eligible to vote. In other precincts, Spanish speaking registered voters were not given a Spanish language ballot which basically meant they couldn’t vote as they didn’t understand the English ballot. It was our job to just be present, observe, and if we were asked (by Voters) to assist in getting the proper ballot, we were to just approach the precinct workers and quote the law to them without getting involved otherwise. We also had phone numbers we could call if there was a problem that needed to be addressed and/or documented. In some instances, none that I observed, MALDEF staff attorneys could be notified and had the authority to accompany voters to the polls to get the correct ballot.

It was very interesting. The year I worked for them (in the 90’s) was the first time in recent history that an anti-immigrant law was placed on the ballot in California so it was doubly important and there was high tension in the atmosphere. Some people called in to get help leaving work to vote as some employers were refusing to allow their workers to leave work to vote. Our attorneys made a lot of phone calls to employers that day.

I like to think that my poll watching work made a difference that year even though the proposition that we supporting failed. (It was put back on the ballot, with slight variation in language, a couple of years later and passed!). I like to thing that my volunteering to register voters made a difference. Maybe it didn’t. However, to me, it was a very important thing to do. It was just as important as voting myself.

Even though I’ve thought seriously about not voting in this election, I will vote. I am not sure if I will vote for either Presidential ticket but I will vote for state and local issues. I just can’t see not voting. It goes against everything I’ve ever believed in.

*Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

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