Early Voting Lines Meet Old-Fashioned Mom Common Sense

30 Oct

By Gayla Schaefer

I am happy to report that I have just finished my civic duty for 2012. I stood in line for close to two hours at the Agricenter early voting station near my suburban home outside Memphis.

While I usually vote on Election Day because I just like to make a big deal of the day, this year I had to vote early because I will be on a cruise ship that day. I thought this would be reason enough to secure an Absentee Ballot, but apparently in Shelby County, Tennessee, unlike my home state of Florida, being out of pocket on election day without an address where you will be is not a valid reason. (By the way, while I know I could have tried harder to find the right person to explain the situation to rather than just going by the web guidelines, the form I just signed at the polling place stated I would have needed to be out of county “for the death of an immediate family member” and gave no other reasons one might be out of the county as valid.)

Apart from the rant that is to follow, I want to say a few nice things up front about the Shelby County Elections folks and my fellow voters:

  • The people here queue better than anything I ever saw in my land of Disney hometown! I have never seen such a long, snaked line looped through a lobby so well – and all without aid of a dividing or guiding line!
  • There is no way not to feel inspired by love of country after standing in close quarters for hours with hundreds of people of all ages and walks of life who adamantly disagree with one another and seeing no one break into attacking battle.
  • The obviously exhausted and understaffed poll workers at the voter identification checking counter were full of good humor and smiles when I finally reached them. And, there was an elderly gentleman dancing his way out of the polls (whether overwhelmed with happiness at casting a ballot or finally being done with the line, one can only guess).

Although obviously lacking for efficiency and capacity judging from the polling booths standing empty while outnumbered workers struggled to move the enormous line through identification, my early voting experience demonstrated beautifully what is good and right about at least one thing in our country- we peacefully elect our leaders. We don’t overthrow regimes with violence in the street. This is to be respected and appreciated far above anything else we complain about, at least in my opinion.

Now for the rant…

Turnout during presidential election years is always significantly higher than for other elections. Yet, even so, turnout is always far below the number of registered voters. But, what if ALL of the registered voters who could, did show up? What would happen at these early voting and election day polling places? I can only guess how many would have to be turned away for lack of space, time, and machinery.

There has to be a better way.

I am sure you, like me, can think of several better ways actually. For what it is worth, here is my overly simple two cents.

  • Change election day to Veteran’s Day or declare it a new national holiday. What better way to celebrate our veterans than to exercise the rights that they fought and died securing for us? Or perhaps better yet, hold elections on a Saturday! That seems like a real no-brainer to me.
  • Put an end to these various voter identification fraud issues, and the resulting disenfranchisement of the poor, elderly, and college students, by creating a national voter id card as part of our Social Security cards. Utilize that technology we all know exists! Provide every citizen a free social security card with photo id on their 18th birthday (the photo indicating they have come of voting age). Merge all of those fancy government databases with felony and death records, citizenship status, military deployment, etc. so that every eligible voter is automatically registered and able to vote.
  • Speaking of technology, enlist the Apples and Microsofts of the world, or just the computer whiz kids they want to hire, to create an online voting system where we can use our social security numbers to cast our one vote.

What about local control and state’s rights, you say?

Well, I am sure the arguments are too many and complex for me to address but perhaps we could just start with a federal identification system and date change for federal races? As much as I agree with my partner Dawn that some of the most important issues are decided by local officials, we already have higher turnout for national races so maybe we can just start there.

Sound a little too Big Brother-ish for you?

Well, they already have those databases tracking such things about you so your argument is really rather ill focused — and counter to the desire for more efficiency in government.

Worried about hackers stealing an online election?

I’m from Florida where we learned all about hanging chads and popular votes versus the electoral college, I will chance some hackers. Besides, if we can do our banking online with security pins and secret questions, surely there is some IdentitySafe type system that would greatly decrease the risk of someone stealing my numbers to vote.

;

These are big dreams, I know. After all, making these changes would take an Act of Congress and more.

So, perhaps we could just extend early voting days, locations, and add enough polling booths so no one has to miss hours upon hours of work in order to pull the simple lever.

Or better yet, let’s standardize and loosen rules restricting absentee ballot distribution to allow more people the option!

In any case, long lines or not, go vote. It is your civic duty and one that was too hard earned to take for granted.

Don’t let a little thing like a long line deter you. Surely that wouldn’t keep you from riding Thunder Mountain at Disney World!

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