Sunday, March 11, 2012

Early voting and why I love it

Illinois is the proven most-corrupt state in these United States, with Chicago being a very forward player in the corruption.  The expression, "Vote early, vote often," originated here.  When I first moved to Chicago, there was often a news story about someone having cast a ballot who was later shown to have been deceased for years and years.  When I'd been living in Chicago for just two years, I asked a friend in an Improv class, Al, if he'd voted that day.  "Several times!" exclaimed Al.  (Of course he hadn't, y'all.  Al is a great improviser and law abiding.)  So taking all that jolly corruption into mind, I now share that since things have gone electronic, I suspect it's mighty hard to vote and vote and vote again.  (I would've thought it was hard before, but then I am law abiding and can't wrap my head around why one vote per person isn't enough.)

A few years ago, Illinois instituted Early Voting.  Instead of having to say you were going out of town or having surgery and having to get an absentee ballot, these days for a few weeks prior to the general election, polling places are open up around the state -- libraries and the building housing the Board of Elections in Chicago, for example -- for citizens to simply go and vote in their own good time.  Do you know who you like?  Avoid getting up early or racing to the polls after a long day at work and do the deed ahead of time.  Take your time in the booth because the lines aren't very long.  What?  That's NOT your congressional district?  They have the time to recheck and then the time to call down to the Board of Elections to double-check that yes, your Congressional district has indeed changed and you are now in the 4th and not the 5th.  The people from the Board of Elections even said to me, "We are happy to check.  We want your voting experience to be a good one."  They complimented me when I left because I came prepared with lists of qualified candidates for the many judicial openings in Chicago (but I did fess up to having just winged it in the past).

At a past election, I wanted to shop downtown and went to the Board of Elections, one block west of Macy's on State Street.  Apparently, it was a slow time of day because when I walked into the room, there were plenty of employees but just me voting.  "May I help you?" called out one of the workers, I said something sassy back, everyone chuckled, and we went about getting the process rolling.  In late October 2008, I went to a library on the Northwest Side and they asked me to remove all my political buttons as it could be construed as trying to influence other voters (I took them off without hesitation but put them on as quickly when I left the polling place).  For the primary in 2008, I could not decide for whom I would vote.  I ground it around and around and around in my head.  "I voted this weekend," said my friend, Mike, because he knew who he wanted.  I could not get my head around anyone for sure but I had it down to three.  When I finally decided, it was too late, and early voting had closed, forcing me to get up at 5 a.m. so I could vote before going to work.  I am not enamored of the the serious, ultra-focused retired people, called Election Judges (equal numbers of each party affiliation), running the show in the basement of the parochial school lobby but I don't mind the lone policeman to whom I nod on the way out, and I detest the phalanx of ward bosses standing the appropriate number of yards away from the polling place, telling me who it's important I vote for.  (Yeah, I tell them I vote for whom I want.)  But I went and cast my ballot and survived and got to work on time.  Trust me, there's been several elections since then and for each one I've done early voting.

People often discuss what made America great.  I think one of the things is choice.  Americans love options; not just one kind of detergent but as many as the market will bear; not just one candidate, but a whole mess of people all espousing their views.  Early voting gives the voter choice and choosing which polling place on the day it's available while you choose which candidate is a delightful option. 

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