We’ve set aside time this morning to cast our vote. We’ve been putting it off for weeks, a couple weeks anyway. He says it’s not that important because we’re moving away from Washington in a few months — these policy changes won’t affect us. But I insist that voting is a privilege that we should take advantage of, no matter what. And we both want our voices heard on the few issues that we’ve heard about and really care about and on the much-publicized presidential election.
So we sit down with coffee and pumpkin bread, he grabs the newsprint voter’s guide and I’m equipped with two ballots and a pen. (I know, votes are supposed to be secret, but considering all we know of each other, it seems silly to vote separately when it is so much work!)
And our extremely scientific voting method goes something like this:
We start out being very thorough with the initiative measures and referendums. He reads the explanations, the “for” and “against” arguments aloud. I criticize the phrasing and grammar. We examine the list of who prepared and supports each argument. We have no children in the public school system, we don’t really understand how the tax system works, we own no property, but we scratch in our opinion just the same: approved, yes, no. We talk about the risks of state universities investing in the stock market and I point out the weakness of fear-mongering arguments. We talk about the legalization of marijuana and the importance of a freedom of religion clause in the gay marriage bill.
We get totally hung up on the mysterious advisory measures, which, as our voter’s guide explains, won’t change the law, but simply let the State Legislature know whether we approve of their (past) decision or not. Crazy. The voter’s guide offers virtually no helpful information about what the measure actually means. I look up additional information online and after reading it aloud for a few minutes, Zack stops me. Yep, you lost me already. Do you understand what you’re reading? Not really. Not at all. We leave those spaces blank.
Moving on to actual people, some of them candidates for positions I’ve barely heard of. Some of their names are familiar from all the campaign signs that line the roads and crowd the intersections.
Most likely Washington will lean to the Democratic side in the presidential election and our vote for president hardly matters. But we cast our votes for the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, hoping that someone will notice that we are sick of the two-party system that dominates the political landscape.
And then the fun begins:
I: So this is for Senate, him vs. her. He looks nice. Lots of international experience. She’s been in office for a long time.
He: Career politician. Ugh. Let’s give the other guy a chance.
I: Skip the next page. Okay, between these next two. That guy is currently in office.
He: The other one’s a veteran. I’ll vote for veterans any day.
I: (On to the next office up for grabs) I’m going on pictures for this one. This guy looks like a creep. His PR person should have found a better photo.
He: I agree. The other one looks much nicer. Done.
I: And for this position? The incumbent has been in office for like 12 years or something.
Again we decide to go for the new guy. I had this conversation with a friend last year. Why is politics one of the only fields where experience in the field is seen as a bad thing? Maybe because we all know from experience that power corrupts.
And so it continues. When one candidate has failed to submit any information for the voter’s guide, we vote for the other guy. Because seriously, as Zack says, if you aren’t organized enough to submit your information for the voter’s guide, can we trust you to handle this office? I have virtually no idea what an Insurance Commissioner or County Commissioner does. I prefer female candidates or the friendlier-looking male. He prefers candidates who aren’t affiliated with a mainstream party (or any party), then typically opts for the Republican Party.
In truth, it’s an overwhelmingly full ballot. We just put in our opinion on government offices ranging from President, to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, to State Legislature, State Attorney General, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and all the way down to whether the city should levy a tax to provide for the local pool and fitness center. Good gracious. It all seems so important and yet we have so little to go on when scribbling in those tiny boxes. I think (as I always do) that I should start earlier and do more research.
Shouldn’t I spend hours combing through the research, the “for” and “against” articles, the candidates’ web pages, the articles describing their past record in business and government? Instead I trust the little blurbs that someone writes about them for the voter’s guide, and then when those don’t help, I depend on my intuition based on their photograph, their educational background, their military service, their community involvement.
For anyone reading this, I don’t intend to start a discussion about the politics behind the candidates, although I’m sure you can guess some of the candidates I’m talking about if you’re familiar with the Washington elections. If anything, it just makes me thoughtful again about the process of electing, decision-making, voting. That’s the conversation I’d want to enter into. And even though I didn’t vote for either of the likely-to-win candidates, I’m quietly apprehensive wondering the outcome of the presidential election this week. Although I suppose it’ll take 4 years for us to truly understand the outcome.