Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vote From Home. Please.

A couple of weeks ago I met up with a guy named Neil who had just arrived in Columbus as part of a group called 'Vote From Home.' These folks are working hard to A) register voters, and B) Encourage all voters to vote early/absentee in the upcoming election. They are young people from around the country, but they seem genuinely interested in learning about their environment, rather than simply parachuting in with clipboards and a script.

They have a website and a blog, and I encourage you to check them out.

Now, I get a number of requests to blog about this or that. Some of which I ignore, some of which I acknowledge and post the info, and some of which inspire me to do my own post. Vote From Home didn't ask me to blog about them, and although I'm singling out their operation, what I'm really doing right now is championing their cause.

Vote Absentee by mail. Vote Early/Absentee in person. Then tell your friends, your family, your neighbors, and your co-workers how easy and enjoyable it was. Please. Please. Please.

Allow me to elaborate:

1) I have repeatedly and vociferously talked about the misunderstandings that many individual pollworkers have about the ID requirements, often because they correctly understand the bad information they've been given. Workers at the BOE are much more likely to understand the rules, and you can be somewhat more confident that any issues that do arise will be satisfactorily resolved. Mailing in your ballot can set you up for new problems (e.g. do you know which number on your Ohio License is actually your License number? It's NOT the one printed on your picture), but at least you can avoid the most common misconceptions that lead to provisional ballots.

2) You will not have to wait in a three hour line if you vote by mail. There is no telling how long you'll be waiting at the Early Voting Location (which I understand to be at Vets Memorial on W. Broad, rather than the BOE offices on E. Broad this year), and there's no telling how long you'll be waiting at your polling place on 11/04. Remember that the consultants who assisted the BOE in coming up with a plan for allocating machines have said that there are almost certainly going to be locations with lines greater than two hours. The difference, hopefully, between 2004 and 2008 will be that the locations where the lines arise won't be so predictably urban. The whole point is to make it just as likely that a line will explode in New Albany as in Olde Towne East. Do you really want to roll the dice just because you've been in-and-out in the past?

3) You will cut 5-10 minutes off the time others have to wait in line in November. If you find yourself with 80 people behind you in line, be aware that your decision to wait until November 4 has probably played a significant role in preventing someone else from voting. It may be true that they are just as culpable for waiting as you are, but unlike that other hypothetical voter you can no longer claim to be ignorant of the potential effects of your decision.

4) One of the biggest reasons for the machine shortages and long lines is due to the inclusion of issues in addition to candidates on the ballot. You will be asked to vote on a number of issues ranging from local tax levies and bonds to mandatory sick days and a new casino. Even the shortest ballots are expected to take more than 5 minutes for the average voter to read and complete. Now, you can try to read the actual ballot language and determine for each whether or not a "yes" vote is a vote for or against your position on the issue while a room full of people waits in line behind you for the machine, knowing that by law you can be asked to vacate the booth after 5 minutes, or... You can sit at your kitchen table and read every word in every proposal at a leisurely pace and cast your ballot with confidence that you have understood each one and voted in accordance with your conscience.

5) You know where the mailbox is. Do you really know where your polling location is? Twenty seven Franklin Locations have changed just since the primary in March.

I know that going to the polls on election day is a tradition bordering on ritual. I personally find it simultaneously reassuring and exciting, and it gives me a big jolt of patriotism. It's more than a little sad to give that up in favor of mailing something on some random October day, but I'm going to do it this time around. If you live in Franklin County, I really hope you'll join me.

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