Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voter Generation

We’ve got Spirit, yes we do! I’ve got spirit, how ‘bout you? I was speaking to voters yesterday – after my Jury Duty stint – and what an experience it was! I met a 38 y.o. Iraq war vet who’d enlisted back in 2003 and he was voting for the first time ever. He was a native San Franciscan of Asian descent and I had to ask him why now (and of course why not before). He replied that things had gotten so bad he had to vote! He was voting for Obama and complained how poorly McCain treats Vets as one of his reasons. It was estimated to be a 3-hour wait and he’d been getting antsy, hoping he could skip the line as he just wanted to vote for the Presidential race. I urged him to consider the many Propositions (34 Yikes!!) we had on the ballot this year that would greatly impact the State and Local municipalities and tried to explain them in an unbiased way. He even found the name of a School Board candidate that he knew and got even more excited. 

As you know every state has different rules, deadlines and techniques for voting. San Francisco County doesn’t have touchscreens in wide circulation – yet – and perhaps that’s a good thing! There’s a very simple paper ballot where you fill in the middle section of an arrow that clearly and accurately indicates your choice. No hanging chads, no funny stuff! Also the electronic options are currently limited to the Presidential candidates BUT you get a paper receipt. 

Another voter complained that the wording of the legislation was so confusing. I agree. I think it should be written simply enough for a third grader to understand. A smart third grader but the clear intent as I see it is to discourage people from reading up on an issue more thoroughly. The mini legalese and double-talk of some of this legislation greatly misleads voters into thinking they are supporting things they in fact may not want! Also I reported earlier that voting had started on October 20th which that was the deadline to register. It had in fact began on October 6th! 

Yup, many people could’ve avoided these long lines by voting at the beginning of last month. Or completing a mail in ballot - though I tend to be suspicious of things getting 'lost'. Now I looked at the Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s website and the official SF Gov page and I’d be hard-pressed to find that information. My suggestion: say "If You Need Help Voting Free Classes Can Be Found Here. Know Before You Go!" and "Avoid Long Lines - Vote Starting October 6th, 2008." Don't set up links upon links under headlines and columns. Paper flier neighborhoods. Hand out pamphlets at the supermarket. 

The polling locations did not have enough voter guides either, not to mention the fact it’s more than 200 pages! There are reports of wide spread machine malfunctions, lack of official ballots, incompetent poll workers and general chaos, but we knew this was going to happen!  I consider myself a somewhat savvy voter, but I was confused even though I had done a lot of research prior to voting. Voter Education classes are available but like I said it’s not as if this has been made readily available to voters nor has this been explained and promoted. I don’t care what these officials have to say, they need to do better outreach. This should be taught in school as well as the basics of finance and budgeting. 

How confusing does it get? One voter sometimes used Junior in their surname and they got flustered by the official that told them he should make certain to add it to his ballot information. He didn’t use it all the time and since he didn’t have his voter card handy (it's not required) he wasn’t even sure he’d registered using it. This is not even a battleground state where a lot of the illegal removal of registered Democrats has occurred (except perhaps for those during the Primary but that’s another story). Can you imagine how many people could have had their votes stolen under these circumstances? 

We need a complete overhaul of how elections are operated, voters get registered and results are tallied. Seriously. 

I forgot about the 3-hour time difference and woke my mom last night just to double check what time she was voting. New Yorkers don’t have early voting and I wanted to give her a heads up on the lines. I thought voting as early as possible was the way to go. My youngest brother is voting for the first time today. I haven’t spoken to him yet but I wrote on his Wall on Facebook about how cool it must be for him to cast his first vote for you know who. 

My mom was groggy but said she was so happy to vote for such a distinguished and qualified candidate. I was also surprised to hear her say she didn’t think she’d get to vote for a Black candidate in her lifetime. She’s only in her 50’s! She briefly mentioned what it was like living at the end of Jim Crow and the dawn of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights. She remembers hearing about people being beaten and jailed and the deaths of King and Malcolm X and many others. The 4 Little Girls. I will need to set aside time and interview her about this. I can’t recall us ever talking about this come to think about it. 

History will be made today and we will live to tell the tale!

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