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Why Write It In – Deus In the Voting Booth

19 Oct

This is, I feel, the most common reason why the majority of people don’t vote. This has a few sub-topics on its own, so I want to address each of the topics by themselves.

Late into a warm summer’s night eight years ago, my father and I were discussing inherent flaws in both American politics and culture. For an hour or so, it was spirited but polite, until I introduced the idea of write-in voting as an instrument of change and expression. My father, a self-proclaimed Dittohead, went instantly from spirited debater to full-on Hulkrage in a few minutes. For the next four hours, this man, from whom I learned to engage in rational, evidence-based discussion, threw the most guano-laced arguments against the whole concept of writing it in: “It doesn’t get counted.” “It’s undemocratic!” “It’s illegallll!” (Even without the unnecessary drawing out of the last syllable, the last one was my favorite of the bunch). After that evening, I’ve never discussed politics with anyone in my clan that is not from my generation.

Until recently, I never wondered why my father had such a Jekyll-to-Hyde transformation over the topic: I chalked it up to my father’s politically conservative background. In the past two years, however, I’ve witnessed the same metamorphosis from the following individuals:

  • A self-proclaimed Socialist, mid-20s
  • Tea Party members, late-30s to mid-50s
  • Multiple members of the mental health community

Not a lot, but the wide disparities in political and public involvement in this small grouping is enough for me to unscientifically observe that this phenomenon is not reserved to just one small part of the political spectrum.

I was perpelexed: Why such vitriol? What was causing this near-fanatic fervor of a simple sentence, “Write in your vote”? It was a sudden flash of memory that provided me with the answer.

In my 8th grade Civics class, in the two weeks leading up to Election Day, I remember the teacher drilling the sentiment above in our head EVERY DAY until the first Tuesday of November, where we got a reprieve because that was Parent-Teacher Conference Day (giving we students the day off). For the rest of the semester, he was a very laid-back and congenial guy, but for those two weeks, he delivered consistently fanatic tirades about the sanctity of this hallowed event. I think he missed his true calling as a Baptist minister, choosing instead junior high education. This was a man, however, who loved and admired the the United States’ form of government and politics so much that he chose to dedicate his career to spreading it like holy scripture to youth that were in the midst of raging hormones. To him, voting was the equivalent of Communion, and he wanted to be sure that, when we turned 18 years of age, we could also sip from the cup as well; unfortunately, most of us now fear that we’d choke on the wafer.

There has been ample research to show that we’re a bit hardwired for spiritual experiences. For these extremely vocal opponents, voting seems to be like a mystical experience for them. If you have ever had to use a lever machine, it feels much like being in Confession: You’re put in a small, cloistered room (the voting booth) that happens to be in a larger, subdued room (the polling location). You are allowed to make extremely personal, significant choices (votes) that serve a larger Being or Purpose (Democracy, Civic Duty, etc), and no-one ever gets to find out how you voted. Looking at it this way, voting could be like communing with Divinity. For you atheists out there, think of it like sugar-free anything: You get to have that religious-like experience without needing any religion. Either way, it’s a real kick.

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The Whys

19 Oct

I want everyone to write in their vote. I could state other obvious facts here. To make it easier, I’m making two categories:

The Whys- Reasons why you should either write in your vote, or just go vote.

The Why Nots- Rationalizations why people don’t vote.

Moving forward now.