Voting is one of the few things I’ll wake up early for.
As corny as it may sound, I always get a little choked up when I vote. When I’m in the voting booth, I feel a little surge of patriotism and a sense of pride at taking part in the democratic process. Even if I know my candidate or my cause is likely to lose, it feels good to have my say. I can’t help thinking of all the people around the world who only wish they had the right to elect their own leaders and how much they envy something most Americans take for granted. Voting makes me feel good. And voting in the morning before work gives a boost to my entire day.
So as usual, I woke up early this morning to vote. But it felt different this time. It was strange to vote in October, for one thing. And it didn’t seem right that I was handed a punchcard ballot. (I know, I said I was going to vote early on the touchscreens, but I eventually decided I didn’t want to pass up the excitement of election day.) The volunteer told me, “Be sure you check your chads.” The fact that she used a word like “chad” so freely was a reminder of how and why that word had entered our collective vocabulary in the first place. It didn’t seem right that, knowing what we know about chads, we still have to deal with them at all. It’s been almost 3 years since the disaster of Florida 2000 — isn’t that enough time to get new voting mechanisms in place? Of course, we weren’t supposed to have an election in October…
And then, of course, there was the issue of what was on the ballot. A recall, in theory, is a perfect example of democracy in action. It’s another way to give the public a voice in the government and hold the elected officials accountable. But what disturbs me about this particular recall is the way it’s been executed without any regard to determining the will of the people of California.
It was put on the ballot by one crackpot billionaire and a lot of out-of-state workers who were paid $1 per signature to get people to express their desire to fire a governor who, while certainly not a great leader, had committed no crime. Perspective candidates were treated to a truncated campaign window which didn’t allow the public much time to digest their platforms, or for their backgrounds to be investigated. (Arnold took advantage of this, knowing it was his best shot at winning an office he’s long coveted, and it came back to bite him in the ass, leaving him no time to respond to charges made against him.) And worst of all, there would be no runoff. In a field of over 130 candidates, the winner would be determined by a mere plurality of votes. So much for majority rule.
So I punched the card. I checked the chads. I voted “no” on the recall, “yes” on Bustamante (who, while better than all the other candidates, would probably be a worse governor than Gray Davis). But it wasn’t like election day. I didn’t feel proud or patriotic or excited this time.
I felt a little sick.