March 29, 2005
Don't Come Whining to Me
I ran across this article in our local newspaper .It was listed in the opinion section and I thought it was interesting, though vague. After the article, I'll offer my two cents worth.
Early voting convenient, not a remedy.
There's a problem with voting in this country. Not enough people do it. This is particularly abhorrent when we have just watched Iraqi citizens risk their lives to participate in the first free and fair elections in memory. That freedom was given to the Iraqi citizens thanks to the sacrifices and the deaths of more than 1,000 American soldiers. We should remember this as our elected leaders talk about changing the system we use for absentee and early voting. At it's heart, the discussion boils down to convenience.
How convenient is it for citizens to cast their ballots? Both Gov. Matt Blunt and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan agree in principle that early voting is a good thing. Carnahan said she has talked with many county clerks who support the concept. The question appears to be not if early voting will be approved in Missouri, but when and how.
Greene County Clerk Richard Struckhoff is supportive of the idea but doesn't think it's something the state needs to rush to implement. "It's a convenience I'd like to see for Greene County voters, but Greene County voters need to know what the cost is going to be," he said. That's important for all parties to focus on.
State law says the government cannot pass an unfunded mandate on to local officials. Spence Jackson, a spokesman for Blunt, said the governor's proposal to relax the rules for absentee voting will increase voter turnout without costing taxpayers money. The governor wants to eliminate the need for a voter to have an excuse for voting absentee and eliminate the requirement that a notary public sign the absentee ballot.
"I don't know that that would greatly increase the amount of money that the clerk would normally expend to conduct an election," Jackson said. But consider this: Greene County spent around $14,000 in postage on absentee ballots in the November election. If the rules are relaxed, the costs could multiply by as much as five times, Struckhoff said.
In some states that have early voting, almost half the voters cast ballots early. That's an extreme, but it's something we have to prepare for. Early voting won't be the cure for voter apathy and low voter turnout. Making something more convenient for people never makes it more valuable. Our last two elections set records for turnout because voters felt the stakes were high. They were informed, passionate and active.
Early voting will be nice when it happens. But let's not kid ourselves about how wonderful it will be. We also hope our elected officials will work together across party lines in crafting the legislation. After all, the Iraqi citizens showed us that the ability to have confidence in voting is the foundation of a free society.
"Making something more convenient for people never makes it more valuable." Then why spend the money to make it more convenient. I can appreciate this person's viewpoint. But I think this person was being too diplomatic and not really spelling out the problem.
Why make it convenient to vote at all?
Voting is a privilege. Something Americans are entitled to do because we are a free nation. And we're free because why? Let me hear it, all together now - BECAUSE WE HAD TO FIGHT FOR IT.
Yes, it's sad when Americans are too lazy or too apathetic to exercise their right as Americans but why should the rest of us spend money to make it more convenient for people who, given the excuse, wouldn't come vote when it was time anyway?
I've never really understood absentee voting - Election Day is marked on the calendars years in advance. It's like Christmas, everyone knows it's coming yet never prepares for it. I suppose if you were a business man and traveled a lot, knew you were going to be out of town that week, ok. But what about the rest? Are they voting absentee simply because they don't want to deal with the crowds? I realize there are legitimate excuses for absentee voting, but I'm willing to bet, half of those "excuses" are weak, at best.
Everything has to be "convenient" nowadays. If it's too much trouble, no one wants to deal with it. No one has time. (I hate that excuse most of all).
It's too much trouble to voice your opinion about the person who will manipulate laws and ultimately affect your pocketbook?
Here's the thing - if people want to stay in bed with the covers pulled over their head because it's too inconvenient to get up each morning, that's certainly their choice. But let me forewarn you, I don't want to hear any whining when things don't go the way you want them to.
Forfeit your right to vote, forfeit your right to an opinion.