I Am Not Voting

I am not voting.

Not because my vote “doesn’t count” due to an antiquated electoral college system that ignores the popular vote across the nation (think Bush/Gore in 2000), or that elections are determined only by “swing states”, hence all the campaigning in Ohio, New Hampshire, or Wisconsin.

I am not voting.

Not because I am too busy, although on November 6th I will be working from 7:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night. Why isn’t Election Day a national holiday?  If we can celebrate Presidents’ Day with a day off to catch some sales at the mall, why not Election Day?

I am not voting.

Not because registration requirements were too complicated to figure out and why should we have to register in the first place? Our records are on file at the DMV so why not just send a “here’s your polling place” to every American over 18 when the time comes.

I am not voting.

Not because I don’t like the options and feel restricted by a two party system that doesn’t reflect my personal beliefs of how government should operate. Multi-party systems are equally flawed, though, reminding us that there is no perfect system of government, although democracy does still appear to be the best choice.

I am not voting.

Not because I just don’t care about the outcome.  Oh no, I care.  I care very much indeed.  I live here, I work, I pay my taxes, I enjoy all the great things the country has to offer, and I worry about our future.  Much like any American.

But I am not voting because I am not an American.

I have lived here for many years and do possess a green card (so back off, Arizona!), but I have yet to make the transition to full-fledged citizen.  People have asked me why bother.  Having a green card is just as good as being a citizen.  You have all the same rights.  All the same benefits (including standing in the US citizen line at airport immigration).  And they are right, save on one account.  I cannot vote.

Voting is a privilege, a responsibility, and a duty that marks us as members of a healthy democracy.  It is the single most powerful tool we have as civilized individuals to determine how we want our society to function.  Any failure to exercise that privilege can only result in a disconnect between government and the people it governs.  Lincoln had it right when he called it a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, but his words can only endure if we vote.

For all of you who are feeling a bit blah about trekking out to your polling place this Tuesday, please consider those of us who would like nothing more than that privilege; those of us who in being disenfranchised truly appreciate the value of that simple act.

Please. Go vote!

4 thoughts on “I Am Not Voting

  1. Chris McKee

    Hopefully I voted. It’s not clear to me. It turns out that if you ask for an absentee ballot and then file a change of address form, they don’t send it to you. And they don’t inform you of this either. After a month I called and emailed a bunch of folks to find out where my form was, and they told me I didn’t plan far enough in advance (1.5 months!).

    So then I retreated to a very uncomfortable position in my mind founded on the electoral college/swing states. But I didn’t want my family to find out, because they’d be furious. I confessed to my best friend’s mother, whose home I happened to be staying in, because I needed to confess to at least one person (ex-Catholic thing? genetic predisposition?).

    And then I got an email from the LA County Registrar of voters stating Federal Law required them to do their best to reach out to overseas voters. I had tried to fill out an online form for something like this earlier, but there was a line of fine print that asked me to swear under penalty of law that I was a member of the military serving overseas, so I scrapped that. The fine print here was almost the same, but included an “and/or” clause about a citizen overseas.

    So then I faxed it in: no envelope, no secret bubble sheet, nothing obscuring my preferences or my name. The manager of the hotel in Hilo maintained a placid friendliness even after he realized how awkward this was. The form had said that every effort would be made to ensure my vote would be confidential as someone manually transferred my votes to a proper ballot.

    And I do actually have faith that most people don’t really give a shit enough to risk their jobs being caught changing the ballot. And that besides the corporate influence of politics through lobbyists and the barrage of advertising and the always tactful, never revealing nature of candidates’ communication, people think voting is fair and works. I also think that there’s a very good chance that the people working at the LA County Registrar are voting for Obama, too, and whoever sees my vote will do a little, two-inch fist-pump while they’re working their way down through their stack.

    I do think we should work out a reliable way to do electronic voting. You should have heard the profound confusion deep inside the woman when she asked me where I live now:

    “Uh, well I’m in Oakland for the next two days. Then I’m moving to Sacramento for a week, before I fly out to Hawaii, Japan, India and a few other countries for a few months.”

    “But where is your HOME? Where is your stuff?”

    “It’s in a closet in Auburn, but I only slept there one night. I’m just storing it at my uncle and aunt’s house while I’m gone. I’m not going to live there.”

    “Where are you going to live when you get back?”

    “I really don’t know. If everything goes as planned when I get back in four months I’m going to do a three month road trip.”

    And for a moment I saw myself in her mind through the comments she was making: I was homeless, with an uncertain future – a poor person facing a nightmare. And that couldn’t be the same person who was able somehow to travel for seven months around the world.

    I definitely don’t want to be the person she imagined I was. One of my potential ideas had been to create a $4K portable production kit I could support myself on (HD DSLR, lav mic, shotgun, laptop, cell phone, website, etc), so I could live everywhere – a 21st Century nomad. But that would require electronic voting. I won’t go into my ideas about how we could secure it somehow. But paper is just so twentieth-century! And right now, I am so not. (I’m typing this in the dark at 5 in the morning, jet-lagged, on a futon on a tatami-mat floor in an old-fashioned inn in Kyoto with sliding doors and rock gardens).

    We decided I should just say Santa Monica, since I had just lived there for a few years. Traveling stretches my sense of time out. I can’t believe I was still living there a month ago…

    Oh yeah, and if Mitt Romney wins I may not come back, so if you’re going to vote, vote for Obama. : )


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