Okay, it’s been little more than a week since the primary elections here in this state, so I feel sufficiently removed from the situation to be able to rant blog.
For any of you who have followed this blog in its entirety, you know that I’m all about elections. Elections are my thing. They excite me more than any sports game could, and I firmly believe that as a journalist, covering elections well and accurately is one of the biggest parts of the job. That’s why I was beyond excited and thrilled to wake up at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning to drive out to all the precincts I could and talk to voters as they came in and out of the polling places.
Now that we have recognized my well-established excitement for elections, I just have to say: The election system in this country is SEVERELY flawed. Disenfranchisement is still a massive issue, but it seems like no one is talking about it. WELL GUESS WHAT: I will.
In my state we have closed primaries, and that basically means that you can’t vote in any partisan races (democrat vs. republican) unless you’re registered with two of the major political parties. For example, if the republican presidential primary were still going on, only republicans could have voted for that primary. If you’re registered democrat, you could have voted for President Obama vs. uncommitted. (Funnily enough, uncommitted won last Tuesday.)
And whatever. I understand how it’s a good idea to have closed primaries for presidential races because you don’t want a bunch of democrats voting for Newt Gingrich because Obama would have handed him his butt on a platter. I get that. But the presidential primary isn’t the only race on the ballot.
In my county we had a U.S. House of Representatives primary election and two city council ward elections. One of the ward elections was between three democrats, and since there was no republican candidate who filed for election in that ward, whoever one that particular race would run unopposed in the general election, making him/her the de facto winner. In addition to this state having closed primaries, this state also has a weird law allowing voters to vote only for their ward in the primary election. The contested city council race I’m talking about happened in Ward 7, so that means only registered democrats in Ward 7 could have voted for this race.
Keep in mind that whoever won that race would ultimately be the next councilperson.
Please tell me that someone else thinks that’s B.S. I’m absolutely certain that dedicated republicans would have wanted to vote in that election, even if it is between three democrats. And what about voters who refuse to align themselves with either party? You’re completely denying them any chance to voice their opinion.
Not to mention, politicians are always harping on about how it’s our civic duty to vote. It’s our right and we need to exercise it. Well what if we literally do not have this right? I wanted to vote in my election, but I couldn’t because I’m registered independent.
Also, while I was out covering the election I heard this little number more times than I could count: “If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.”
First of all, there is no stipulation in the First Amendment requiring people to vote before exercising their right to free speech. It’s not “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. But those fuckers have to vote first before they’re allowed to exercise this right.” I am allowed to complain as much as I want about how our silly politicians are essentially ruining our country and I’m allowed to complain as loudly as I want.
Second of all, what if I literally CANNOT vote? You’re saying I don’t get to complain about B.S. laws that keep me from voicing my opinion in the first place? Don’t you see the circular logic? Don’t you see the sheer, stupid IRONY of this whole situation? It drives me absolutely crazy when I hear that “vote or shut up” argument.
And lastly, the secretary of state for my state kept whining and complaining about low voter turnout. In the weeks preceding the election, she sent out press release after press release about how it was such a shame that there wasn’t more interest in the primary election. This was my face every time I read those press releases:
I mean, seriously. If you want higher voter turnout, make it easier for people to actually vote. Make people actually think that their voice or opinion matters. Don’t say, “Oh, no one gives a shit about your opinion if you’re a democrat.”
All in all I still love elections, and I will vote in and cover them with the zealous enthusiasm of a 12-year-old girl attending a Justin Bieber concert until the day I die. But shit needs to change in this country. If we’re all about freedom of speech and giving everyone the fair chance to voice their opinions, then actually act on this.