Exercise Your Uninformed Opinion

Voter turnout in this country has for the last four decades hovered right around 50%. Of all the people who are citizens of age, mentally competent, not felons and registered, only about half actually show up to take part in the democratic process.

That's not one of the things I'm most proud of as an American. In Western Europe it's more like 75%, and in Australia it's said to be 95%, although there it's compulsory, so I don't feel too bad.

It just seems like the most damning evidence that we're a complacent society of overprivileged dipsticks, which I hear is what the rest of the world thinks of us anyway. All these hard-won freedoms and we don't even bother to exercise them. Phooey.

It's particularly embarrassing since I personally was in the bad half of that bunch of apples during the first election for which I was eligible. Gore lost to Bush (sort of) and set our country on a collision course with disaster and it was all my fault. (Sort of.) I believe I was helping Lope move out of her apartment or something.

But this year was different. Penny and I went and voted last week, just to get things out of the way and make sure we didn't miss it.

And I'll tell you, it felt good. I put up my little yard sign and irked my neighbors, and I fired back an indignant response or two at my family members' mudslinging email forwards, but other than that I didn't do much to participate in this historic election. No knocking on doors, no working the phones, not even a strenuous objection when Penny's little sister Brittany shrugged and said she probably wouldn't vote. "Oh, well," I figured. "Can't be helped."

Note: This was before I found out that Indiana would be a battleground state, of course. We've been as red as Reagan's tie since 1964, when we decided against McCain's predecessor as Arizona senator, Barry Goldwater. I just figured we'd swing Republican again this year, like we have my whole life. But maybe not. (!)

So in light of my minimal efforts this year, it was a relief to at least say I cast my vote. Punched the buttons on the ballot. Struck a blow for the minority here in the Hoosier State.

The only thing I had a problem with (well, the only significant* thing) was the last half of the ballot. All the little local elections. How do I know who ought to be Kosciusko County Coroner? The public information is pretty slim, sure, but even if these guys were standing right in front of me I'd have a hard time saying which one ought to be trusted with dead people.

Should our sheriff stay in office? Only if he promises to let them Duke boys go most of the time.

Treasurer? Pick a wealthy-sounding dude, so he's less likely to swipe all our dough. He's already got plenty himself. Somebody with "III" on his name. Is Richie Rich on the ballot? Can his dog Dollar be his running mate?

Should we keep our County Council members, Republicans in all four districts? Apparently so, since no Democrat or anybody else is even running against them.

Circuit Court Judges? County Council Trustees? Sure, whatever. I shrug repeatedly, synchronized with Brittany.

I did my best to guess at these things, while Lope just virtuously left them blank. (It's more in my nature to just be agreeable, and play along as best I can, but Lope evidently studied under Wittgenstein: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.")

And while I do feel bad that I'm not more informed on the people and policies that shape life in my little corner of the world, it still reminded me of something funny.

It was a joke by Kathleen Madigan, who I think is just a riot. I'm probably not supposed to be posting this material on here because it's copyrighted and all, so if anybody asks me to take it down, I will. But I thought you might enjoy a bit of humorous observation this afternoon as you head off to the polls.

* The other, insignificant thing I had a problem with at the voting booth was the animal mascots for each party. I thought Democrats were donkeys and Republicans were elephants, which I like because each is about equally flattering/unflattering depending on your context and perspective. But next to each one on this ballot was an unfamiliar representative from the bird kingdom: An eagle for the Republicans and a rooster for the Democrats. Apparently that was common a hundred years ago, and we here in this state, along with Oklahoma, Kentucky, and West Virginia, have hung on to it. Weird. The Libertarians got it worst of all, though. On their little pixelated corner of the screen, it would appear they're represented by a flaming book.)


Hello, I'm Ryan Noel. said...


I actually started like you. I did my best to mark every circle, but then I got to the judges and I thought, "Ryan what are you doing? You don't know anything about these folks." As a compromise I evenly distributed my vote to Rs, Ds and Ls for judges, because it seemed most fair — not necessarily smart.

The rest I left blank.

Valarie said...

I voted from way down here in Mexico, via absentee ballot emailed in last week.

Chantelle said...

I think my favorite part of this post... "we're a complacent society of overprivileged dipsticks"