The minute I knew what my address would be in Washington, I registered to vote on line. Burning my Voter ID card from Florida made me feel as good as burning my bra would have during the early days of the Women’s Movement. You see, I come from the land of the hanging chad, where one could never really be certain that one’s vote was actually counted.
When I got my Voter ID card here in Washington, I looked to see where I would have to go vote. In Florida it would have been a local library or school or church (which always seemed counterintuitive and ethically shady to me, but whatever). And the polling place would have been staffed by geriatric volunteers and presided over by dour faced election observers from foreign countries, which always made me feel like I had just stepped into a third world dictatorship. Washingtonians have none of that. You vote by mail. Are you kidding me? What, no 5 hour lines in the blazing sun, surrounded by theoretically distant yet somehow still in-your-face biased political yard signs? No Republican false advertising telling people in minority neighborhoods the wrong hours and days that these places would be open? How is that possible?
And the registration process is less restrictive in Washington. Here, you can vote if you’re a felon, as long as you still are not under Department of Corrections supervision. So you can actually pay your debt to society and once again have a say over how your community is governed. Imagine that. You can’t do that in Florida without going through an often decades-long process to get your right to vote restored. We wouldn’t want those extra Democrats floating around and mucking up the system, now would we?
Also, in Florida you can be adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting. I’m surprised they aren’t still participating in involuntary sterilization, too. Sort of a one stop shopping for the mentally undesirable.
And according to the registration website for Florida you have to “Provide your current and valid Florida driver’s license number or Florida identification card number. If you do not have a Florida driver’s license number or a Florida identification card number then you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number. If you do not have any of these items, you must write “none” in the box or field.” Gee, if you can write none, why bother with the rest of it? To be more intimidating and inconvenient, perhaps? The Washington site doesn’t even get into that foolishness. It just says you have to be a legal resident.
And as if all of this wasn’t good enough, on October 15th, I got two magazine-sized publications, one for the county, one for the state, and my official Washington Ballot, which I can either mail in or drop off, as long as it arrives by November 4th. The magazines include a full page of info for each candidate, including the nonpartisan judges. Each candidate also has web page information so you could read further if desired. The initiative measures have up to 8 pages each of information. These 8 pages include an explanation of the law as it presently exists, effects of the proposed measure if approved, statistical charts, a fiscal impact statement on both state and local levels, and arguments for and against the initiative. This made me nearly weep. Anyone in this state who doesn’t take advantage of this incredibly easy system is just lazy and civically irresponsible.
In Florida, what you got was a two page sample ballot with no descriptions of anything at all. If you wanted to learn more about candidates or measures, you had to really do your homework. Read the papers, get on line. Do your research and hope the information you came up with wasn’t warped by someone with an agenda. And nonpartisan judges? Forget it. Finding out about them was nearly impossible. It wasn’t unusual to Google their names and find nothing at all. Can you imagine how hard it would be to cast an educated vote if you were semi-literate, unmotivated, or a retired person who isn’t computer savvy?
The thing is, Florida’s system was the only one I knew, so I had no idea how justified my outrage should be. I feel as if I’ve woken up in an enlightened society for the first time in my life. And I’m also starting to fully understand how unbelievably screwed over I’ve been up to this point.
This is your typical Florida voting line. I got this picture from an article on Think Progress, which was entitled:
No matter how hard they try to make it for you, don’t let them win. Vote! Vote! Vote!