Sunday, November 2, 2008

Election day tips

Published November 2, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

After months of mudslinging, pandering, and begging for votes, it’s finally here. Election day is Tuesday. It’s time to “Rock the Vote.” I don’t really know what it means to rock a vote, but I’m going to vote on Tuesday, no matter what. I’ll probably wear my Aerosmith t-shirt and walk in with a hippy swagger, just in case.

There’s a lot of talk in the national media about potential disenfranchisement of voters. Conspiracy theories abound. It doesn’t help that so many of them are supported by actual cases of unconscionable behavior by political party activists and certain elected officials. Add to that the fact that existing numbers of voting machines may not be enough to accommodate record numbers of new voters, and you’ve got the makings of a debacle of Bush/Gore 2000 proportions.

Never fear. I’ve spent at least 14 minutes pondering this situation, and I have some ideas for avoiding disenfranchisement at the polls. Follow my suggestions, and I can guarantee your vote will count (unless you’re voting Democrat in Utah. There’s really nothing I can do about that.)

First, don’t believe anything you get in the mail that isn’t your actual voter registration card. No matter how official a form looks, if it tells you there’s a problem with your registration or your polling place, make sure you verify, verify, verify. Whether you make a phone call or find up-to-date information online, get the facts before you decide not to vote. The only way to know for sure if you’re on the rolls is to make an appearance at your polling place and see for yourself. If you registered in enough time, chances are, you’re on the list.

Now that you’ve made it to the polls, be careful whom you trust. There may be unsavory people lying in wait to rob you of your rights. If anyone tells you he can get you out of there more quickly if you just vote on his machine, don’t fall for it. It’s a lie, and it’s downright un-American. Everyone with half a brain knows our system of government is based on a longstanding (heh) tradition of waiting in lines.

Once you make it to the election judges, you will have to verify that you are, in fact, who you say you are. In this situation, less is not more. Bring every form of ID you own. Driver license, social security card, credit cards, voter registration card, wholesale club membership card, work I.D. badge, everything. Make sure you don’t forget your library card. While there are no longer laws on the books that require proof of literacy before a citizen votes, a library card could improve our chances if the election judge just happens to be a retired English teacher.

Finally, when the time comes for you to actually vote, take it slow. If you’re confused, ask for help. If the machine malfunctions, ask for help. If you are in any way concerned that your vote didn’t count, ASK FOR HELP! Poll workers aren’t just trained in checking names and giving out stickers and candy, though if you need help with your sticker or candy, you can certainly ask for help with that.

If after doing all of these things, you find yourself disenfranchised, you can take comfort in the fact that millions of new voters were able to rock the vote, and at least one of them voted the way you would have. And of course, there were probably thousands of others who were also disenfranchised who would have voted against your candidate. It’s a small consolation, but it should help a little bit.

And if it doesn’t, there’s always the candy.