Thursday, October 30, 2008

Swing Vote

I usually don’t vote. Ever since I have been of voting age, Illinois has been a “Blue” state and in that time period, Illinois never had an election close enough to be labeled a “Swing State”. It’s not that I’m heavily political in one direction or the other; it’s just that I don’t particularly want to spend the time making the trip down to the polling center. I’m thoroughly apolitical and lazy when it comes to these issues such as elections and campaigns. I know I’m abusing my electoral privilege as a US citizen by not voting, but with some relatively twisted logic, I see it a different way.

Here’s my logic: Illinois carries 21 Electoral College Votes, and the direction of those Electoral Votes is determined by each state’s Popular Vote (which is what how as individuals vote). The next President Elect is determined who gets the most Electoral College Votes. Each state tips all of it’s ECV’s in one direction in the other, with only Nebraska and Maine being the only states able to “split” it ECV’s . It’s basically all or nothing for Illinois and the majority of the other states. In 2000, there was a tie between Gore and Bush, and Florida was the last swing state to be tallied. We all remember that huge debacle with some pregnant guys named Chad and it had become important because their votes would swing Florida’s ECV’s, and hence, the election to either Gore or Bush. I tend to remember that Florida’s outcome was a narrow 500 votes to win the state, and it swung the ECV count to George W. Bush. Al Gore won the Popular Vote by a margin of 540,520 individual votes over Bush across the nation, but the way the system works, the election was determined by a few voters in Florida who couldn’t correctly punch holes in a card.

Since Illinois has always been one direction Red or Blue by such a large margin, a single lazy voter like me isn’t going to make much of a difference since there are so many other voters out there willing to take my place. Couple that with Obama being a Chicago home boy, there is no way Illinois is going to be anything but a Blue state this year, as it would be blasphemy to vote for the opposition. If I lived in Florida or another swing/split state, I’d vote. If the Popular Vote was the default in the result of an Electoral College tie, I’d vote. I fully believe it’s more important for me as an Illinois resident that voting on the State/District/County propositions and electoral positions is more important than the presidential campaign. These votes on the local politics are much more important because most likely it will have a direct impact on what happens in my community. Unfortunately, I am never prepared or know who or what I am voting for when it comes to local stuff and I always end up never knowing what I was voting for or against. I just figure it would be best for everyone if I stayed away.

So, with my intent on not voting this year, I was going to avoid the polls, and if I were to vote, to research all the local issues and candidates so that my vote would have some sort of logic and reasoning. I totally failed. In a surprise move, I got talked into going to vote with my mother, Meredith, and Precy, to go to the Early Polling center. My mother is a manager at the company I work at, and she whipped out some rule that employers must provide time to vote, as required by state law. Not idea if that was true or not, as I believe she just made that up, but time away from the desk to vote can’t be all that bad. We carpooled down to the polling center, ID’s and residency documentation in hand.

Voting was relatively simple. You check in with your ID, they give you a memory card, and you then head to a computer that runs you through the voting process. Once again, I was faced with making decisions on propositions and community elections that I had no idea about. I had no clue who I was voting for; if they were good people, axe murderers, or if they were even still alive (we did have an incident a few years ago where a dead person was elected to position).

Once it was all over, I huddled with Meredith to ask how she handled the voting for the positions such as Circuit Court Clerk, Town Commissioner, and Village Idiot. “I went down my party line” she said. Logical. I would have probably done the same if I wasn’t busy making patterns out of the check boxes. Remembering there were a couple instances where multiple candidates were in the same party for a single position, I asked how she handled those. “I went with the names I liked. For one of them I chose the guy who had his nickname in quotes because that’s just hilarious. His name was “Sparky”. I loved that he had that in there.” I totally avoided Sparky, because his name WAS in quotes. People like Joey “The Clown”, Vincent “The Butcher”, and “Fat Tony” kept coming to mind. Quotes in their name aren’t always a good thing. But for all I know, I probably voted some villain into office just because he left his nickname off the ballet.

My next question to Meredith was “So how did you vote for the Illinois Constitutional Congressional Meeting? It’s supposed to happen every 20 years and it got voted down last time.” I had personally voted it down because there must have been a good reason why it was turned down last time and do we really need a bunch of politicians boozing it up on our tax dollar at the state capital? Meredith response was “I voted it down because there must have been a good reason why it was turned down last time. Besides, the only thing all those guys are going to do is party it up on our tax dollar.” WOW. That was almost freaky.

I then asked her about our hometown’s proposition to issue 21 million dollars worth of bonds to rebuild the Community Center. “I voted yes because Lisle needs improvement like that and they probably would have spent the money on something or another, so it might as well be on something good for the town.” I had also voted for it, but was really unsure what the “if it doesn’t pass” option was. Out of curiosity, I Googled it when I got back to the office. Basically, the proposition said that if it didn’t pass, Lisle would spend 11 million dollars on patching up the existing center that is inadequate and spend another 10 million on various projects not yet outlined.

I guess when it comes down to it; I’m not sure what to really think about the voting process. All I know is that I’m still guessing about what I just voted for. Sometimes you vote for the right thing, sometimes you don’t. I’m sure Meredith and I are just a microcosm of how everyone else votes, picking names because they way they like how it’s sounds or because they unknowingly recognized it from an obituary. Did Illinois really need the constitution to be congressed on? If important issue sprang, wouldn’t they have a special voting meeting for it? Or are we shooting ourselves in the foot by denying a 2008 gathering of congress type people? All I know is that there’s going to be a huge booze fest, which had been 40 years in the waiting, down in Springfield if it passes. I wonder if "Sparky" will be there.


Anonymous said...

OH CHRIS! GOOD for you for voting this election year - so important - I am sure it was b/c of your lovely Mother, but STILL. The Chicago Tribune has a full outline of the differences in each local election and of course, the differences between the Presidential candidates....GLAD you voted...I agree with you that Illinois bleeds blue regardless, but STILL! :) Jen H.

Bill said...

Chris - good for you for exercising your right. Even if you were coerced. ;)

As I sit here, stuck in Iraq, unable to vote because my board of registrars mailed out the absentee ballots so late that it made it impossible to meet the deadline, I get riled up thinking about the millions that won't be bothered to vote, yet sit around and complain about the state of the union.

As I read the first paragraphs of this post, I guarantee you I was quite pissed. But pleased to see that you did make it.


Ryan said...

Dude, you work for your Mom?! Sorry, sorry. The rest of the post was pretty straight forward, and not comment worthy.

Does she call your paycheck an allowance? Heh... Sorry. I'm through. Promise. You obviously weren't stirred by civic pride this election cycle, so congratulating you would trite.

You're in your mid-30's right? Ha! Wow, okay, feel free to ban me now.

But good for you, I'm sure that Lisle will thank you in myriad ways for helping them to build their new center.

And here's to you and yours not having to deal with too many presidential motorcades in and around the city.