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26 January 2010

Vote Early and Often

The last day for early voting for the Illinois Primary is 28 January. I cannot become accustomed to early voting. This is supposed to be somehow taking the place of absentee balloting by people who have to know they won't be able to arrive in person at the ballot box on the appointed Tuesday. Now, the only people who should be applying for absentee ballots would be people who couldn't even physically come during early voting days (although they would still have to know a great deal of time beforehand in order to be able to get the ballot and then, mail it in by 28 January). Those would be, for example, expatriates, snowbird senior citizens and their more unfortunate bedridden or nursing-home-bound compatriots, road warriors living in RVs parked in far-from-home Wal-mart lots or the Obamas.

This year, I heard about "grace period registration" in which someone who did not register timely can still do so at certain places (in Chicago, it must be downtown at the County Clerk's Office) BUT these laggards must be prepared to vote IMMEDIATELY upon registration. The last day to register to vote had always been 30 days before Election Day. I used to bemoan the fact that radio stations and newspapers (plus helpful shopowners) would tell you, "Remember to Vote Today!" on Election Day, but not remind you to register to vote a month ago so that you will be allowed to vote on Election Day. The election gods must have heard me and whispered "grace period registration" in someone's ears, especially since the early voting period backs right smack dab into that registration deadline. Now, you can be reminded to register and to vote a the same time.

Between grace period registration, early voting, absentee balloting and polls open on Primary Election Day from 6am to 7pm, I can't see how much easier our governments make it for someone to do one's civic duty. Yet, the United States consistently has the lowest voter turnout of any democracy in the world. And, I think that statistic includes the ones in which half the electorate has declared a boycott of the polls. In some places, being dead is not even a good excuse. This apathy is pervasive, choking and not worthy of us Americans. I could hardly believe we're still standing as a nation. Through our collective indifference and inaction, we have invited all the grief we have received from our elected officials, their appointed officials, the resulting laws, the interpretations and applications of those laws, and anything else that is covered in the Book of Job. And so on and so forth, adnascentia.

By the way, Belated Happy Republic Day for the citizens of India and Great Australia Day for all of you Down Under. When are your election days?

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