Stupidity, or the Law of Unintended Consequences?
My first official shot at voting was in 1972, when I was a sophomore in college. It was an exciting, scary time to be voting, particularly if you were one of the newly franchised under-21 crowd. It was also an exciting, scary time to be a machine politician with an influx of passionate new voters. And so the pols of New London, Connecticut (where my college was located and where I registered to vote), worried that all the damned college kids would vote for people they didn’t want voted for, particularly in the local election. Now, to the best of my recollection, I didn’t much care about the local politics; anything below congress was pretty much lost on me. But the pols weren’t about to take a chance on me and the thousand or so new voters at my college. A few months before the actual election they challenged our registrations on grounds of residency. And stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Many people who had a passionate interest in the presidential election but had not much cared, up to that point, about the local scene, got interested Real Fast. Meetings were held. Lawyers for the group were found. At least one faculty member, as I recall, ran for local office after the challenge. I was one of a bunch of people who went door to door in New London, imploring people to vote for the new progressive slate that had not existed before the challenge. We organized rides. We countered the fearful protests of people who said they were afraid if they didn’t vote the “right” way they’d lose their public housing. We were, briefly, on fire.
And all because someone tried to take away our newly minted franchise. So here’s something I have in common with my Suffragist fore-mothers: I take voting seriously. Even when the cause seems lost or the choice of candidates sucks rocks, I savor the action itself, the pushing of toggles and levers (in New York) or the marking and scanning of my ballot (in California). When they were small, I took the girls with me to vote, so they’d know how important it was. It’s my annual shot at letting the world know how I think things should be run.
California is expecting a record turnout today: 56%. As records go, hardly impressive. As with so much in the Land of My Birth, we could do a hell of a lot better. If you’re in a Super Tuesday state, go swell the numbers. Vote. Bump it up to 57% or 59% or even 60%. Change the world.