posted by Joe Anaya on November 5th, 2012

Tomorrow is election day. Mercifully, for people living in swing states, the campaign ads, the mass mailers, the robo-calls will all end tomorrow. I’m excited to be able to answer my phone again, without listening for that tell-tale pause after I say, “Hello.” (Fair warning, if you’re a slow talker, be prepared to be hung up on when you call our house.) Despite these negatives, I like voting. Not the theoretical representation of the people, but the actual process of going to the polls and voting.

My wife works a job with long hours and a long commute and struggles finding time to get out and vote before or after work. So she signed up to vote by mail. Unfortunately, she accidentally filled out the form for my vote. Now neither of us are happy.

One perk of being freelance and working from home is I can avoid the long lines by voting late in the morning, say 10am. I don’t even mind when there is a line. It usually gives me a chance to make a final decision on the local measures. You know the ones, where “yes” means “no I don’t want that.” Or I spend time trying to figure out, which of the competing measures is from the people and which was created by the opposition, whose soul goal is to confuse the voters. I have a friend who accidently spent a week campaigning for a car insurance measure, only to realize that the measure was created by the insurance company as an attempt to deregulate their insurance practices.

I always say, “If you don’t bother to vote, you don’t get to complain.” Nothing irks me more than people who complain about government, after skipping election day. I’d rather talk to someone who votes straight party lines without thinking or talk to someone who voted based on emotion over talking to someone who didn’t even vote.

I understand that it’s easy to get jaded and feel discouraged that your vote doesn’t matter. But every now and then there are reminders of how lucky we are to have a well-established history of voter representation. About a decade ago, one man stood up to a column of tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests for civil rights. In 2009, Iraqis proudly displayed their ink stained finger as proof of voting despite death threats from the insurgents. And last year, the Arab spring was propelled by people risking their lives for the basic rights we complain about having to make time to participate in. These people’s struggles for representation make our complaints about negative campaigning seem trivial.

When I lived in San Francisco, I had the best polling place ever. It was set up in a retiree’s garage. I’ve voted in churches and school cafeterias, but there’s something cool about hanging out in a driveway and pulling a lever in your neighbor’s garage. It’s not just the institutionalized sanctioning of the government, but feels like proof positive that the process is the will of the people. And that after all is what we’re doing by voting, right?



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