Surly voting

04Nov16

voting_manCall me old fashioned. Call me a slave to tradition.

But I’ll be voting on Tuesday, Nov. 8, on what used to be known as Election Day.

Now, with the advent of early voting, every day is Election Day! It’s the latest craze to sweep the commonwealth. By the time I vote on Tuesday, all the cool people will have already voted.

The idea of early voting is supposedly to boost turnout by making it easier for people who can’t find five minutes to vote during the 13 hours that the polls are open on Election Day.

Actually, early voting is probably the least worrisome of the so called “reforms” that have been put forward to make voting “easier.” All of these measures seem to be rooted in the assumption that the reason for low voter turnout is because voting is “hard.”

In fact, the primary reasons people don’t vote are apathy and laziness. In Wakefield, local Town Elections in April usually draw less than 20 percent turnout. But in November of 2008 and 2012, over 80 percent of Wakefield voters somehow managed to cast ballots.

Does voting magically become easier in November of even numbered years?

Early voting hasn’t really increased voter turnout in states that have had it for years. That’s because the reasons people don’t vote have nothing to do with it being hard to vote. Besides, if you can vote any old time, Election Day ceases to be a special occasion that people make note of. So they tend to forget.

Far from being difficult, voting is so easy that it’s possible to do it multiple times in one election. I know, because it almost happened to me.

vote0413I’m not one of those fair weather voters who only votes every four years. I vote in every election, no matter how small, local or inconsequential. So I went to vote in some low-turnout, nothing primary one year. The elderly woman at the check-in table asked for my street and number. I stated my address but she misheard the house number and read back my next door neighbor’s name as she started to cross his name off the list. I corrected her, but I could easily have voted as my neighbor and come back later to vote as myself.

I did it by accident, but if you think there aren’t people out there who do it on purpose, you’re very naïve.

“Well, even if there are people doing that,” we’re told, “it’s not enough to swing an election.”

Oh, so as long as it doesn’t affect the election outcome, it’s OK to steal someone else’s vote?

Of course, there’s a simple way to avoid the above scenario. It’s called voter ID. You show an ID at the polling place and they hand you a ballot. Simple.

“But not everybody has an ID!” opponents of voter ID wail, “You’d be disenfranchising all those people!”

I don’t know exactly what percentage of the 18 and older population has a driver’s license or some other form of government-issued picture ID, but I’d bet the mortgage that it’s in the very high 90s.

drivers_licensesOpponents of voter ID always exaggerate the number of adults who don’t have IDs. “It would be too expensive to provide all of those people with free IDs!” they fret.

It’s funny how people who generally have no problem with any amount of government spending suddenly morph into fiscal conservatives when voter ID is mentioned.

“But the poor and minorities can’t afford to get a driver’s license or an ID!” they howl.

Really? I guess they never get married, pick up a prescription, board a plane, buy cigarettes, booze, cold medication, etc. – the list is endless. Every voter ID law ever proposed has made provisions for those who can’t afford an ID.

“But there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud!”

Suggesting that the number of “proven cases” is the full extent of voter fraud is like believing that the people arrested and convicted for OUI are the only ones driving around drunk. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

If voter fraud happens even once, that’s somebody’s vote being cancelled out – possibly mine, yours or some poor or minority person’s vote.

You may not have a problem with that, but I do. Especially when the fix is so cheap and easy.

[This column originally appeared in the November 3, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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