Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Adventures in Voter Registration

The other day I heard a news report that really frightened me. It wasn't about terrorism or some global disaster. The report said voter registration had closed for the state of Florida.

I thought, You have got to be kidding me!?! It's still a month before the elections!!

And therein lies one of the bigger problems with our system. In only a few states can you register to vote on Election Day.
And even then the polls are typically open from 7 AM to 7 PM. What about the people who work the graveyard shift? Or the people who have to work multiple jobs to get by? Yes, employers are supposed to give time off to employees to exercise their right to vote, but when every dollar (and therefore every hour you work) counts, many people would not feel the trade-off is worth it.

I think we should adopt a 24-hour Election Day. We don't need the early voting system we have, although we should keep the absentee ballot system, as that benefits troops stationed overseas as well as U.S. citizens living abroad. But we call the second Tuesday after the first Monday in November Election Day, not "Election 12-hour shift", or "Election Half-day." Spend the government allotted campaign money on something that's worth it, like staffing polling locations for a full 24-hour day. And then allow people to register to vote at specific polling locations. With everything going digital, it shouldn't be difficult to set up a system to check if a person is registered or not already, and then allow that person to vote. This early registration nonsense keeps a lot of people who are maybe unable to make it to the Clerk of Courts office during business hours to register from voting in the elections (and on key ballot initiatives) every November.

Anyway, fortunately for me I was already registered from the 2008 Presidential Elections and only had to fill out a change of address form. The following is the conversation that took place when I handed over my revised information.

Voter Registration Lady (VRL): You previously lived at 2350 River Park Circle?
Me (Me): Yep, that's the one. I thought I was going to be moved back to Orlando by then, but things haven't quite worked out yet, so I'm still in Titusville.
VRL: Oh, your sex and race information are currently unlisted. If you could just fill in the rest of this section here... (hands me back my form)
Me: Well, it said that information wasn't required.
VRL: You would just like to leave it blank, then?
Me: Yes, please... Well, can I write down inaccurate information (like that I'm a black Eskimo woman)?
VRL: No, you can't.
Me: Okay, blank is fine then.
VRL: Wow. You were a member of the Real Food Party in the last election.
Me: Yeah. That one seemed the least ridiculous.
VRL: (laughing) Well you're the first person I've met that was registered with that party. I didn't think they even had a candidate in anything.
Me: Actually, they had a guy running for president, but I don't think he made the final ballot.
VRL: Really?
Me: Yeah. The only reason I joined the Real Food Party is because when I registered to vote last time they said I couldn't join the Birthday Party.
VRL: (laughing) You're a funny one.
Me: I turned in my registration form with the Birthday Party written under "Party Affiliation" and they said they handed it right back and said I couldn't do that. So I had to go look up which parties were legit and this one made the most sense.
(I looked down at a stack of pamphlets, including the "Proposed Constitutional Amendments" handbook and picked one up)
Me: Is it okay if I take this?
VRL: Oh sure. They're there to help you understand what some of the ballot items are.
Me: These things can be hard to understand sometimes. Like Amendment 5 and 6 are the same, and Amendment 7 was proposed but then got struck down by the courts, but it's pretty much the same anyway.
VRL: You seem to understand a lot more than most people do.
Me: Well I'm hoping to be a lawyer, so I kinda have to understand some of this stuff.
VRL: (laughing) If you're going to be a lawyer you are going to have to join a real party.
Me: Why?! That's the last thing I want to do! The real parties make even less sense than the Real Food Party!

(After looking at the handbook for a minute)
VRL: Here's a receipt of your changes, if you could just look over them to make sure the information is correct. You'll also receive your card and registration in the mail.
Me: Thank you very much. Have a wonderful day.
VRL: Thank you, you too! It was a pleasure meeting you.

No joke. That is how my conversation with the Voting Registration Lady went from the time I handed over my form. And it brings up some interesting questions, like why are race and sex important questions for registering to vote? Why is there such a strict adherence to what party everyone belongs to? And what will it take to establish the Birthday Party?

My platform: Once a year, every man, woman, child, and old person shall have a birthday! Vote Aaron Brand, Birthday Party, on November 2nd!

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