Monday, November 7, 2011
Occupy the vote
It's fall. And you know what that means! Time to get out the vote! Now, I've heard quite a few reasons for not voting, with reasons ranging from apathy to anarchy. Here's my response.
I don't have time.
I don't buy it. You have time to stop for a double latte, don't you? Or go for a run? Or eat lunch? Polls are open from 6 am - 9 pm. I don't know about other locations, but it takes me about 10-15 minutes to get in and out of my polling place.
I don't know any of the candidates, so I'd rather not vote at all.
Well, the best solution is to learn about the candidates. To check your polling place, view your ballot, and get contact information for your elected officials, go to this website in Monroe County: http://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/index.php.
It's the day before Election Day. You don't possibly expect me to learn about all those people in that time, do you?
Okay, I know it's late in the game. Although I'm generally an advocate of voting for the person, not the party, my guess is that there's a political party that lines up with your beliefs, at least roughly, even if it's not one of the major parties. See who's running on the third party lines that may be more in keeping with your values.
The politicians don't really represent me and therefore I'm going to boycott the system.
This is an odd one to me. Do you think the "politicians" care that you don't vote? Actually, the status quo politicians are the ones who benefit when you don't vote. They would love for you to stay home and watch TV/play video games/surf the internet. Anything but get involved.
Voting doesn't matter. It's all money and politics and no one cares about the little guy anyway.
This is the one I really want to talk about. I agree that we need campaign finance reform. But not voting does nothing to accomplish that. Sit down while I tell you a little story.
In 1999, I was a project director for a university that was among the first round of grant recipients to implement legislation to reduce violence against women on college campuses. The request for proposals spoke of the need to change the rape-supportive culture that is too often found on campuses, and to make sure that services were inclusive of the needs of all women, including women with disabilities, African American, Latina, Native American, and Asian American women, and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. Funded programs were expected to aim for fundamental change in social norms, and the concomitant policies and services.
In 2000, we elected a new U.S. President. When the grant came up for renewal, the RFP included no talk of social change, no talk of women of color, of women with disabilities, of non-heterosexual women. Instead, the RFP was aimed at improving facilities, such as increased blue lights and better police communications systems, and victims' services, such as victims' hotlines and counseling services. All of those things are good and necessary. But they are also very much about supporting the status quo culture that presumes that rapes will happen; we just need to deal with it.
That's a very different message from the first RFP which held out hope that social change actually could and should happen. It was a great deal more challenging to continue to work for social change while also complying with the requirements of the second round of funding. Inevitably the priorities of the project had to shift.
No doubt you now know where my political allegiances lie. That's okay. The message is the same. Whether you preferred the first or the second set of priorities, the policies, and policy-makers matter. Even those as far away as the federal government.
Okay, fine, I'll vote in a Presidential election, but what's the point of voting in the local elections?
Do you care about your school district? About the health of your local economy? About whether there are services for the needy in your town, city, and/or county? About any variety of issues from property taxes to lead prevention to accessible day care? About how your tax dollars should be spent? Then you need to vote in your local election.
Some countries' citizens are so grateful to vote that they will risk their lives to vote. Is voting a panacea? No, not at all. But it's the least you can do.