November 2nd

Twenty four years ago, on the Tuesday of the first full week in November, I dutifully filled in my absentee presidential ballot (for John Anderson, who was running as an independent).

I've voted in every election that I've been eligible since then.

As a citizen of a democracy, it is my civic responsibility to vote.  And I take that responsibility very seriously.  I vote in primaries, I vote in special elections, I vote in general elections.

This year it's especially important to vote, regardless of whose side you support, your candidate needs your support.  It's critical that EVERYONE who can vote, vote.

This year, it looks like Washington State is going to have an 85% turnout of registered voters, which is likely to be the highest since WWII.  I am indescribably proud of this statistic (OTOH, in 2000, 74% of the registered voters voted, which was only 56% of the voting age population)

Unfortunately, the turnouts in other states aren't nearly as good, for instance, in 2000, only 55% of the registered voters in Oklahoma turned out to vote (48% of the voting age population). 

With an election that is this close, and with what appear to be concerted efforts to suppress the vote in close contests, it is even more critical that everyone take time off from work and vote.  As I said - I don't care who you vote for, just that you vote. 

If you don't vote, then you don't get to complain.

Valorie chased down the following poem by John Greenleaf Whittier that was read on NPR this morning.  It's a bit florid (it was written in 1848) but it says it well:


THE proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.
To-day, alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known;
My palace is the people's hall,
The ballot-box my throne!

Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.

To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man's common sense
Against the pedant's pride.
To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land;
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!

While there's a grief to seek redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon's vilest dust,--
While there's a right to need my vote,
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat
A man's a man to-day

Tomorrow, back to technical stuff.

Comments (27)

  1. Jacques Troux says:

    >If you don’t vote, then you don’t get to complain.

    That is wrong, and that statement really bugs me. Elected officials represent _everyone_ in their constituency, not just those who are eligible to vote and did vote.

  2. Jacques,

    If you don’t vote, then you have no right to complain about the performance of the person in office. If you don’t like his performance, then you should have voted to kick him out.

    If you voted, then you’re making an assertive choice. Passivity is not a choice.

  3. Ron Shelton says:

    I completely agree with you Larry.

    Although I sense Jacques is speaking more from a standpoint of someone who is not eligible to vote – such as a minor or non-citizen. Those, of course, being special cases.

  4. Larry… some of us have lived here long enough and paid enough in taxes but are unable to vote that they get kind of pissed about the whole being unable to vote thing.

    I won’t be able to vote for another 2 years. Unlike people born in America, I have to fight for my chance to vote.

    So some of us take this real seriously. Even though we can’t vote, we damn well want to make sure that everyone who can vote does, and we have a very very loud opinion.

    It all goes back to this whole "taxation without representation" thing.

  5. Ron Shelton says:

    Simon, I hear what you are saying, and it is frustrating. I assume you are making your way through the citizen process.

    Although it takes more of your time, people in your position can have some voice (and in many cases a stronger voice) by helping out in campaigns, state and local lobbyist groups, and special interests groups.

    This latest race has proved to me that the smallest detail can make up the mind of a voter. It only takes one sentence that sounds good to someone to change their minds. It’s very scary really, but it’s a big example of how much of an effect a large and active campaign base can have. There is real power there.

  6. Donnie says:

    Note that "suppress the vote" is usually a euphemism for trying to prevent voter fraud. If we really want every vote to count, shouldn’t we make every effort to ensure that only living, eligible voters are allowed to vote? The incidents of dead people, pets, voting multiple times, etc. are extraordinaril well-documented.

  7. Donnie,

    If the parties involved were working to prevent voter fraud for ALL registered voters, then I’d be willing to call it as a voter fraud prevention measure.

    But for some reason, the only registrations that get challenged seem to be for a single party, and I’ve only seen one party mentioned in the media (both conservative AND liberal media) as being dedicated to avoiding voter fraud.

    I can only think that if the one party that is trying to reduce voter fraud is doing it by trying to reduce the number of fraudulent voter registrations for the other party, that they’re not doing it because they legitimately want to reduce fraud, but instead because they believe that it helps their cause.

  8. DeepICE says:

    Hmm…. NPR – I know which candidate you voted for 🙂

  9. Actually, DeepICE, you don’t know 🙂 I’m fiercely independant, and I vote for both democrats and republicans.

    I think that NPR’s the best news source from 6:30AM until 9:00AM in the morning (between when I get up and when I get to work), that’s why I listen to them.

  10. DK says:

    "… regardless of whose side you support …"

    You said it, Larry!

  11. Clint Hill says:

    Funny. People will hear what you say you listen to on the radio and feel as though they can figure out your party affiliation.

    DeepICE must watch Fox News.

  12. Drew says:

    The 1st amendment gives us all the right to complain. Its protection is not contingent on whether or not we vote.

  13. Actually, the 1st amendment doesn’t give you the right to complain.

    First off, the only thing that the first amendment does is to prevent the government from stopping you from speaking. It doesn’t guarantee the right to unlimited speach (a subtle difference).

    Second, yeah, the government can’t stop you. But by not voting, you CHOSE to not make a choice. And if you didn’t make a choice, you have no moral standing to complain about the consequences of your inaction.

  14. mschaef says:

    Well said. Vote if you can.

    "I can only think that if the one party that is trying to reduce voter fraud is doing it by trying to reduce the number of fraudulent voter registrations for the other party, that they’re not doing it because they legitimately want to reduce fraud, but instead because they believe that it helps their cause. "

    Then the other party should be doing the same thing. That’s the nature of adversarial systems like ours.

  15. Drew says:

    The 1st amendment protects me both from the government and from the mob who would silence me with the "love it or leave it"/"no vote, no voice" rhetoric.

    I didn’t/wouldn’t make any claims about rights to unlimited speech*. That would be silly.

    "Moral"? Good heavens! I thought this was about rights. I don’t feel I’m qualified to judge on moral grounds.

    * 2 e’s; no a. 😛

  16. Drew,

    Yeah,I know I can’t spell 🙂

    I’m not sure that the 1st amendment protects you from the mob. It prevents the government from stopping you, but it does not force the government to give you a protected soapbox.

  17. Drew says:

    Yeah – the spelling thing was a cheap shot. At least you’re consistent, though. 🙂

    IANAL – I could have this all wrong. I think it works this way, though:

    Sickening as it is, the KKK has the right to march in public. I hope that’s a good example of an unpopular group whose speech protected by the 1st amendment. Other groups aren’t allowed to stop such things. We can protest them. We can try to shout louder than they do. But we can’t stop them. Their speech/assembly is protected not only from the government, but from me: I would have to do something illegal to keep a Klan march from happening.

    Luckily the same mechanism protects my speech. And yours. And all US residents. (I think it applies to residents and not only citizens.)

  18. "I think that NPR’s the best news source from 6:30AM until 9:00AM in the morning (between when I get up and when I get to work), that’s why I listen to them. "

    Amen! I listen to Morning Edition on my way into work, and All Things Considered or Marketplace when I leave work.

    NPR is actually very neutral in their reporting. Their reporters and interviewees do a great job keeping their personal opinion out of the way. When NPR does interview a person who is from the left, they are always careful to also have someone from the right.

    In my opinion they are one of the best sources out there for general news.

  19. Wolfgang says:

    I like to quote Plato on this:

    "The penalty for not participating in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

    Plato goes a step further than you, Larry. It is not only important to cast your vote (or actively refuse to), it is also important that whatever you vote for, you do so because you agree with it. That brings me to a second quote, from Buddha this time:

    "Do not believe in anything because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

    But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of all, then accept it and live up to it.


    Way too many people vote simply what they are told to (by their elders, the church, teachers, et cetera).

    Participating in politics is more than just voting whenever you’re eligible to do so.

    And even if you’re not eligible to vote, you still have the social obligation to participate in politics.

    So, I would say: not participating in the political process voids your complaints.

  20. Mat Hall says:

    One thing I don’t follow in these elcetions is this whole "electoral college" thing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I can work out, this is an entirely plausible scenario (the numbers are made up, but illustrate the point):

    State A — 1 million inhabitants, 20 college points.

    State B — 1.5 million inhabitants, 30 college points.

    Candidate A gets 0 votes in state A and 750,001 in state B. Candidate B gets 1m votes in state A, and 749,999 in state B.

    Total college points for candidate A is 30, and candidate B gets 20 — the upshot of this is that candidate B has won more than twice as many votes but still lost the election.

    This strikes me as being one of the stupidest ways of electing a president as could possibly be imagined, so it’s little wonder that it looks like Bush is still going to be in charge…

    (Not that our system is perfect, but even picking a winner at random is preferable to the ridiculous system uin the US.)

  21. Petr Kadlec says:

    I have to say I don’t get that "if you don’t vote, don’t complain" thing. The fact is that my vote cannot change anything. If I voted for Bush and then not like what he is doing, would I be allowed to complain? If I voted for Gore and then (of course) not like what Bush is doing, would I be allowed to complain? Is there any difference then if I voted for Nader, or for noone at all?

    (Notes: I am not from the US. I _am_ going to vote on friday in our election, uncomparably less important than the US presidential election.)

  22. Mat,

    One of the things that you need to understand about the founders of the US is that they fundamentally didn’t trust the votors. Remember – the US was the first modern democracy, and because of that, people didn’t know if it’d work.

    So they set up the electoral college as a buffer between the people and the president. If you look at the early writings, the expectation was that the electoral college would deadlock every time, throwing the election in the House of Representitives (you need to win a majority in the EC, but if you’ve got more than two parties, this is VERY hard to happen).

  23. amac says:

    Actually, another major protection the constitutional founders consistently had was prevention of the tyranny of the many. This is useful both in the declaration of free speech (for unpopular minorities, as well as for majorities), as well as for elections and representation, as it is also a thread used for our Congress. (Representatives being population based, and Senators being state based)

    This theme is also reflected in the electoral college vote. It can reasonably protect the smaller states from large voting blocks like Los Angelos or New York City (notice I did not reference the states) as completely overriding all of Rhode Island’s or the Dakota’s state voters.

    Something else I think of is that David Brinkley said during the wee hours of Election night 2002 was something like "If this had been a popular based election, then every precinct in the entire United States would be eligible for challenge by lawyers, and the chaos would not be localized to Floride and Arizona alone."

    On another note, I also listen to NPR, because while I do think they have some of the best news, I think they are a little left of center, but they give enough variety of articles, it satiates my omnivorousness for information.

  24. Btw, Drew, I’ve been thinking about this for a bit.

    In the case of the KKK, the first amendment guarantees the right of the KKK to hold a demonstration (the city can’t refuse their permit).

    The police that guard the KKK aren’t guarding them to protect their first amendment rights. They’re acting to keep the peace, because the KKK has a lawful parade permit.

  25. Bob says:

    Paraphrasing George Carlin:

    If you vote for X, and then you think he dropped the ball and totally screwed the country, do you really have any right to complain? YOU put him there to do the damage. YOU said "this is the guy that can do the job", then he couldn’t. The mess is YOUR FAULT.

    On the other hand, if I didn’t vote, or voted for a third party ("throwing away" my vote), the current mess is not my fault – I said "neither of the two major candidates can do the job", but no-one listened to me – I am one hundred percent entitled to complain about the mess YOU created, vote or no vote.

  26. Brian says:

    NPR–neutral? Hey, pass the bong.

    I listened in today. I loved the way they balanced Joe Klein’s thinly veiled ranting about Bush with Ron Suskind’s thinly veiled ranting about Bush on the program I listened to. Really, that’s NPR’s idea of balance.

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