October 23rd, 2018
Monday was the beginning of early voting in Wisconsin. I went to the Oak Creek City Hall to cast my ballot. I voted yesterday because I will be out of town on the day of the actual election. Two elderly women took, in what appeared to me, an excessive amount of time scrutinizing my driver’s license and trying to find my name in their registration file. Their apparent confusion did not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling about the electoral process. Perhaps, they were a bit over-cautious. In a time when our President tweets in capital letters about “VOTER FRAUD” at every opportunity, I imagine that the people working the polls are a little edgy. These women seemed tense.
When I teach my citizenship class at Voces de la Frontera, I always tell the prospective citizens of the United States to vote once they are able. I make a point of explaining to them that I don’t care how they vote. I just want them to vote. I want them to be active and engaged citizens of this country. Voting is a big part of being a citizen. It is a duty as well as a right.
I thought about that as I voted. It is difficult for me, and probably for many other people, to see how an single vote matters in the grand scheme of things. I cannot even count how many elections did not go my way. It is very easy to conclude that the electoral system is pointless, or even rigged. Our current regime in Washington encourages the idea that the system is rigged. Elections only matter if all the parties involved accept (perhaps grudgingly) the validity of the results.
In a sense, voting is act of faith. I believe that my vote makes a difference. I cannot know this for certain. I cannot actually know that my vote gets counted. I cannot know that the system is fair and honest. However, for this cumbersome and confusing operation to work at all, I have to believe that it can and does work. I, along with everyone else, have to trust in the process.
It is hard to trust. There are people, our President included, who continually scream that there is endemic voter fraud. These people, perhaps by design, keep people away from the polls. They instill fear and doubt in the electoral process. This is a poison that destroys democracy.
Going back to my citizenship class, I often tell my students that, at the beginning of our country, very few people could vote. Back in the old days, the only persons who could vote were white men, over twenty-one-years of age, who owned land. Since then, many people in our country have struggled mightily to expand voting rights to everyone. Others have struggled just as hard to restrict the right to vote. That fight continues to this day.
There are people who find it very difficult to vote. There are the poor who cannot cast a ballot during polling hours because they are working, or because they lack transportation. There are those who lack proper identification (like the elderly). There are those who have been kicked off registration lists, for whatever reason. Voting is a right, not a privilege. There should not be any obstructions to people being able to vote.
There are also people who should vote, but don’t. My kids don’t vote. Hans tells me that he fought for in a war for American freedom, and he never votes. He doesn’t think that his vote counts. Stefan doesn’t vote because he is convinced that it as all a scam. We have discouraged an entire generation from participating in politics. This is a the path to dictatorship. This is the road to ruin.