Saturday, November 01, 2008

On Voting, Texas Style

Click for Larger Image of Republican Signs
Homemade signs in Texas sure have a cowboy way about them, don't they?

This is the first year that I have been a resident of a state that allowed voting early, so I decided to take advantage of it -- my ballot is already cast, and will ostensibly be counted on November 4th. In 2002 and 2004, I cast absentee ballots -- the first because I would just barely be recovering from surgery, and the second because I was being sent out-of-state (Kansas, I think) by my work. Other than that, I have voted only on election day itself since I was 18.

When I entered the Polk County Courthouse, the official poll site for early voting here in Livingston, I was the only one in "line," if one person can be a line. My voter registration card was examined and stamped with a little red "VOTED" and the date; I signed a large ledger-like piece of paper where oddly the addresses were recorded and then the paper flipped so the signatures were upside down; and I was directed to one of three electronic voting booths by a chatty poll worker.

The booth was a temporary fixture, sitting on spindly legs in the middle of the corridor, and featured two small strips of plastic that ran down the sides to prevent others, if others had actually been there, from seeing my selections. It looked like a small computer, complete with a touch-screen interface and a large, friendly, red button that proclaimed "VOTE". Once the touch screen selections were made, a confirmation screen was presented so you could review your ballot to be sure the computer was about to correctly record your vote. The red button also lit up, and by pushing it you sent your vote on its way to wherever voter electrons go.

While I have voted in every Presidential election since I came of age, I have never been one to encourage people to vote if they have neither the interest nor the information to cast an informed ballot. I don't check a box, or push a button, or click an icon, or punch a chad if I haven't made myself informed of the pros and cons of the issue or candidate -- and I did skip some local issues in this election because I hadn't researched them or felt that I would not be affected by the decision in any meaningful way.

Having said that, I still would encourage all of you -- but especially the women -- to watch Iron Jawed Angels before election day, or read this Snopes article Why Women Should Vote. It puts focus on how tough the fight was for women to gain the right to vote -- a right we so often take for granted. As an aside, did you know that women had the right to vote in Wyoming since 1869? They hoped it would bring women to the frontier.

In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment" to the Constitution finally conferred the right. It says, simply, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

I'm not trying to shame anyone into voting -- if you choose not to, you'll get no recriminations from me -- the right to vote is also the right not to vote. But, whether you decide to hit the polls or not, take a moment, regardless if you are a man or a woman, to thank those who made that choice possible for all of us.

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