Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
~Thomas Jefferson

Don't forget to vote!


Eaton asked in comments whether voting in the US is compulsory as it is in Australia. I thought I would answer her question here, rather than in comments.

No, voting is not mandatory here, and too many people choose not to exercise their right to vote.

Sadly, there is also great inconsistency among states where voter rights and regulations are concerned, other than that it is illegal to prevent elligible voters from doing so.

Some states (like mine) allow same-day registration, whereas others have a cut-off weeks, or even months, prior to the election. That would have royally ticked off people on my street a few years ago when we were annexed into the city less than a month before the election, which meant a change in polling venue. Thankfully, same day registration meant we were all still eligible to vote, even if it meant having to re-register at the polls.

Not all states have early voting, either. Here in Madison a new record was set for early/absentee voting: 35,000 people over 25,000 four years ago. For the first time, the clerk's office was even open on a Sunday to allow early voting, with up to a two hour wait for some people. On election day, polls are open from 7am-8pm, but anyone standing in line after the official closing time cannot be turned away.

Also, only 22 of the 50 states have a law requiring employers allow workers time off to vote, ranging from 1-3 hours. Some states also require that it be paid time off. Wisconsin is at the high end (3 hrs), but it is an unpaid leave, and time off should technically be requested in advance, though many employers have no problem letting people leave early or arrive late so that they can vote. (Voting laws by state can be found here)

Type of ballots also varies across the country, from touch-screens to levers to different types of paper ballots where you fill in bubbles, ovals, arrows, etc. and then feed the ballot into a machine. As I said, no consistency at all. Here is a sample of the type of ballots we use here. This was for the nearby town of Oregon in 2006, but is the type I filled out today. Voters use black markers to fill in the arrow next to their choices.

Personally, I believe ALL states should require companies to allow time off to vote, as not allowing it (particularly for long-distance commuters) can infringe upon a person's right to vote, which is illegal.

And yes, I have voted. I walked over to my polling place about 9am. Some places already had lines wrapped around the block when polls opened at 7am, but I had no wait at all--just walked right in, was handed a ballot, and walked out five minutes later. What did surprise me was not being asked for ID when they checked my name off the list of registered voters. And they wonder how voter fraud occurs...

The unseasonably warm weather (72F today!) made for a pleasant mile walk there, and I passed many others en route to and from the school where my ward votes. We nodded hello to each other as we passed, with only one person asking if there was a line. I took my camera and followed a slightly longer route home to photograph some of the fall foliage. Though most trees are past peak, a few small maples still wear vibrant yellow leaves, and yards and streets are blanketed with dull oak leaves, punctuated by the brighter ones of maples. A number of homes still have pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and scarecrows on display as well. As I said, a most pleasant walk!


Eaton Bennett said...

Is voting compulsory in America? It is here in Australia. It seems the whole world is waiting to see the outcome of this election.

Bethanne said...

OMG! that so bugged me this morning! No one asked me to see my id. No one asked my husband either. I stood there, thinking...I could have said my neighbor's name and it would have been just fine...as a matter of fact, I could come in here 10 minutes later and said my neighbor's name...after voting for myself. Grr. Please, could we have something done about this please???

Alice Audrey said...

Vote! Ack! I just got off the road, but I better scoot if I'm going to be in time.

Lynn Daniels said...

I can report that every time I've voted here in Georgia I've always been required to present my I.D.

I drove past my polling place today; not only was there not a line, but there were only a handful of cars in the parking lot. I participated in early voting last week, and it's been reported that 43% of the registered voters in my small county cast ballots before Election Day.

Lynn Daniels said...

ACK! Maybe I should rephrase my first sentence -- in each election in which I've voted. I didn't want to make it sound like I voted repeatedly in the same election!

Heather said...

Bethanne~ I'm glad I'm not the only one who was upset by that. For the past four years we've heard how they need to do something to prevent voter fraud, be stricter about checking IDs, and that we needed picture ID when we went to the polls--and then many places were not checking ID.

Alice~ I trust you made it on time? Better have! ;-)

Lynn~ It's good to know some areas are checking ID. They had a record number of early voters here, too. The figure they gave on the evening news was 1 in 7 voters, which in a city this size is pretty impressive.

Eaton Bennett said...

Thanks Heather, how different our countries are in their voting policies. Our is straight forward, vote or else you better have a good explanation. If not there is a fine. But there is allowance for objectors and religious reasons for not voting. I bet you are glad it is done with for now. :)

Heather said...

Eaton~ You're welcome. And yes--so glad the election and 24/7 campaign ads are behind us...at least for a few months. All too soon it will begin again as we approach the race for mayor/governor/US senate. *sigh* It never ends. We really need laws to shorten the legnth of campaigning. The race for president was a two-year ordeal--much too long!