FAIR WARNING: I AM ABOUT TO EXPRESS OPINIONS ABOUT CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS. LEAVE NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW.
The days left before the election are waning, thank God. Every year, it seems, voters (myself included) get more discouraged about the venom in politics, and as a result fewer and fewer of them actually want to vote. The logic, which I completely get, goes something like this: Why bother? Elections are about who yells the loudest and who raises the most money, not about the things that really matter.
Unfortunately, that often feels true. I don’t have the statistics (and as we all know, statistics can often be used to make just about any point you want), so I won’t pretend to know that it IS true. It’s irrelevant, really. If it feels true, and people don’t vote because of it, then it’s true enough.
I won’t stay home, though. The ugliness and meanness and handfuls of money thrown at self-serving “causes” and the constant trying to figure out who really means what they say and whether that “gaffe” was significant or just a slip of the tongue and the never-effing-ending media analysis of everything WILL NOT GET ME TO STAY HOME. I am confused and upset and exhausted, BUT I WILL STILL VOTE, DAMMIT.
I will still vote, in large part because of that saying, “if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about the outcome.” And I really like complaining.
I kid, but the hidden truth behind that saying is that even though the process is painful and possibly broken, elections are still our opportunity to try to make things better. I can’t in good conscience pass up that opportunity, and I can’t deny it to someone else, either.
That is the primary reason I am voting “no” on Minnesota’s Voter ID amendment proposition this year. (As I’m sure everyone is confusedly, upsettingly, exhaustedly aware, Minnesota is voting on two amendments this year. I’ll be happy to tell anyone who wants to know why I’m voting no on the “other” one, but people have already passionately and eloquently expressed their reasons in several other places, and it seems to me that most voters have already made up their minds.)
In the ads I’ve heard and the articles I’ve read about Voter ID have largely focused on the numbers: how many cases of voter fraud have there been? how many could have been prevented by an ID requirement? how much will it cost taxpayers to provide IDs to people who cannot afford them? how many people will be disenfranchised?
Honestly, I find those numbers … unconvincing. Voter fraud=bad, yes. But I don’t find the number of cases particularly compelling. Eligible voters turned away on technicalities=also very bad. But in my experience most people who care enough to vote care enough to find out what they need to do to register.
Here are the numbers that continue to shock me. In Presidential election years, when people feel like there’s really a lot at stake, about half of us vote. That’s when it’s important. In mid-term years, it’s more like one in three.
Putting any kind of additional barrier in front of voters, therefore, seems completely irrational to me. The real issue isn’t people whose votes shouldn’t count. The issue is all the votes that are never cast. I can’t vote yes just on the basic principle of the thing.
What really makes me mad about this is that it allows this vicious circle to continue. The passionate turn out for elections and the uncertain stay home, so to win the vote all any politician has to do is to make sure the people passionate on his/her behalf will vote, and try to encourage passivity or apathy on the other side.
DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT. GO VOTE.