Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Have You Voted? by Carla Damron

Today is Election Day. Of course, you know that. You are up to your eyeballs in absurd candidate commercials and if one more person calls you about voting, you may go postal. When the votes are tallied, will you celebrate? Or will you sigh, and wonder how things always turn out the wrong way?
(I’m likely to fall in the latter group, but I’m hoping for an upset.)

I see no reason to explore party politics here. What I’d rather discuss is why people vote. Or, perhaps more importantly, why people don’t.

Other countries are successful in the area of voter turnout. In 2009, 96% of the people in Uruguay voted. In 2010, 89% of Rwandans cast a ballot. Taiwan had a 74% turnout in 2012. Heck, 71% of the French people voted in 2012 and you know how skeptical they can be. And the US? 57%--just a little better than half. (Data compiled by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance).

So why don’t Americans go to the polls? Maybe because it’s such a hassle. In Columbia, SC, where I live, the last election was a fiasco. Not enough voting machines, limited tech support when the ones they had went down, and ridiculously long lines. Some people waited six hours to vote. I worry that these folks are less likely to come out today.
Or maybe we’ve just become too jaded to vote. “It’s hard to believe MY vote will make a difference, given how all politicians are unethical slime buckets” or “Corporate America owns all of them. Why bother?”

Why indeed.

In South Carolina, we have our share of corruption and idiocy among politicians. Our House Speaker was recently indicted for misuse of campaign funds. He actually faced worse charges but reached a deal with law enforcement that included testifying against others, so more indictments are probably coming.  A former state treasurer for SC, now running as an Independent for US Senate, was once convicted of trafficking cocaine and is presently the star of his own reality TV show. And let’s not forget former Governor Mark Sanford, made famous for “hiking the Appalachian trail” down in Argentina. Guess what? We put him back in office.

I guess I understand why people may choose not to vote, but I think they are cheating themselves. Speaking for myself, I can’t wait to cast my ballot. I’ve seen a phrase this election that resonates with me: My Vote is My Voice. Even if my candidates lose, I want to have my say in what happens.
Maybe it’s like buying a lottery ticket; I vote, I hope, and who knows? Maybe I’ll get a happy surprise!

 One more thing: in my day job, I’m the Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers, SC Chapter. We put together a little video about why you should vote. Check it out here:


  1. I have been the tying vote in an election. You never know when your vote will really matter. And, I think voting gives you complaining rights. No vote—shut up until the next election.

    Jan and I will be driving into town to vote later today (27 miles each way).

    I want to pass on my mother’s solution for getting better candidates. All ballots have a “None of the above” lever. When selected, it subtracts one vote from each candidate. To win a candidate must receive the greatest number of votes AND it must be positive. If no one has a positive vote, they are all thrown off the ballot and we try again.

    ~ Jim

  2. When I was teaching in Baltimore City, I was dismayed by the general attitude among the staff that voting was a waste of time, and they were not represented no matter what happened, so why bother? The voting process was arduous, with long waits.

    When someone would say, "What difference can one person make?" I'd say, "Try stalling your car on the Bay Bridge on a Saturday morning in summertime. You'll make a difference."

    I'm of the "if you didn't vote,you can't complain" school.

    I am sorry to see all the barriers that are thrown up, including the photo ID requirement (and no,not everybody already has one or can get one easily. Look at the statistics for the "unbanked"--people who do not use commercial banking services. They often don't have IDs)

    My grandmother proudly voted the first year women were permitted to, and we knew better than to let her know if for some reason we hadn't voted in an election.

    I wouldn't suggest we follow the Chicago machine's motto: "Vote early, vote often," but each vote is important.

    And Jim, I don't think I've ever voted anywhere that has a lever (or a voting machine.) Just paper ballots. But I will look for the "none of the above."

    Off to vote.

  3. Missouri is one of the states that now require an ID. I heard on the news that in one state a gun license is an approved proof of identity but a student ID is not. I always vote.

  4. Carla, loved your video. Can we vote for you?

    It gets harder and harder to stay optimistic about politics - SC had Sanford, my state had the governor who thought it was business as usual to have a rich supporter pay for his daughter's wedding, his Rolex, etc. - and then blamed it all on his wife. What keeps me going is seeing all the unsung people who are not on the ballot but keep our democratic process going - the poll volunteers and my favorites - the League of Women Voters - plus all the people who volunteer every day to change our world for the better. If only some of them would run for office…
    Off to vote!

  5. Jim, how COOL to be the tying vote!
    KM and Warren, we have voter ID. The Justice Dept found it illegal and our state spent millions suing them, and won. Why? There has been one instance of "voter fraud." One.
    Shari, the entitlement some elected officials feel is unbelievable. We're about to see more indictments among our legislators about this very thing.


  6. Carla, there was a comedian on NPR yesterday - forget his name - who was interviewing a member of a party I won't mention here, but you can guess, and the comedian was mentioning the voter fraud and the statistics of actual voter fraud which were pretty much what was mentioned above, and the person he was interviewing still thought the law for voter ID was okay and also made some blatant racist comments. Fortunately, the comedian said he'd been fired. I also think taking away early weekend voting in many places is wrong. Many working people can't take the time off to go vote only on weekdays.

    I've only missed voting in two elections and that was when I was sick. When I was teaching, I always voted early so I could wear my "I voted" sticker for my students to see.

    Loved, the video, Carla.

  7. I understand why people get cynical. But I just finished voting anyway. No waits. No problems. Not sure if my vote will make a difference. The good thing about getting through Election Day--maybe the phone calls with recorded voting information will stop. I vowed I wouldn't vote for anyone who called. They all do it! How can we outlaw it when those who decide are the ones doing it.

  8. Interesting--no ID required this time to vote (last time they asked to see it, but noted that I could refuse & would still be permitted to vote.)

    Paper ballots, no curtains on the voting booths.

    You know you're in a fairly rural area when the election judges outnumber the voters present, and the topic of conversation when you walk in among the judges is how well-behaved your dogs are.

  9. I enjoyed your video, Carla!

    In one of the recent presidential elections I waited for two hours to vote. Long wait times make it tough especially for people who work and have kids. Thankfully, they've made it easier and faster by returning to paper ballots.

    This year I voted early using an absentee ballot for the first time. I wasn't sure if I'd be in town and wanted my say.