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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

VOTING RIGHTS

Chatting with my sister the other day about the long lines at the polls, I was struck by her attitude (and the attitude I've seen in many others): she had no pity or concern for people who might have to stand in line for hours on end, or who might not be able to do so because they could not take time off from work. "There's personal responsibility involved here," she said. "They should have planned better. I had to stand in line, I had to give up time - why shouldn't they?" This year, for the first time in her voting life, my sister stood in line for an hour to vote. Normally, she stands in line for about 10 to 20 minutes. Her polling place is two blocks from home. And although she works two jobs, one her own business and the other for a major casino, she has a lot of wiggle room during her work days - it's pretty easy for her to slip away from her business and vote.

Imagine if you will: your job is a two-hour bus ride from home. Your shift starts at 6PM (before the polls open) and you normally work a ten hour day - you pick up the extra hours whenever you can because you need the money. You don't make much - in fact, you're not even sure how you're going to pay the electric bill this month. Although legally, your employer must allow you time off from work to vote, you can't afford financially to take the time off and besides, your boss is a real you-know-what. Times are tight, you don't want to do anything that might make it easy for him to lay you off. Yes, yes, he can't technically lay you off without good cause, but last month, he laid off one of his better workers, just like that. The guy was due for a raise. Two weeks later, he hired someone else as a replacement - at minimum wage.

Yes, you could have voted absentee. When your voting materials arrived in the mail, you didn't really pick up on that option. The booklet was thick. You wished you had realized you could do so - and you know it's your own damn fault for not reading the booklet thoroughly - front to cover. But working ten hours a day, picking up after the kids, helping with the homework, you're pretty darn tired by the end of the day and usually crawl into bed exhausted.

You could have taken advantage of early voting. But your polling place was only open between 10 and 2PM on the weekdays during early voting - you can't take time off from work in the middle of the day.

You sigh. Yes, you're responsible for this. You should have figured out a way. You accept personal responsibility: guess your vote won't count this year.


We say voting is a privilege. But it's not. We are a democracy. And voting is NOT a privilege. Voting is our RIGHT.

Maybe when this election is over, we will demand that our elected officials review the way we vote in this country and make substantive changes. Here we are, supposedly a shining example of a democracy and voters are tricked into staying away from the polls, voters are expunged from the voting rolls (without cause), and are deterred from voting because there are not enough polling precincts, not enough voting booths.

For those of us who are privileged enough that we can take advantage of our voting rights: GO VOTE!

3 Comments:

Blogger LeftLeaningLady said...

AMEN!

This was a scenario I had never thought of. Sad that it is a definite possibility. That is why the rest of us MUST vote for those who can not. You did. I did (this morning, a brief 30 minute wait). Hopefully AMERICA wins this election.

Obama '08. It is all over, except the celebrations!

November 04, 2008 8:36 AM  
Blogger Jack K. said...

I VOTED!!

I even wrote a little about it on my blog.

Here is a link to a story you might find interesting.

Voting is a right and we are privileged to live in a country were we have that right.

Glad to know you voted.

November 04, 2008 8:50 AM  
Blogger J Cosmo Newbery said...

Fair comment. Lee comment on as much too. It is all rather puzzling to non-US folk.

November 04, 2008 3:37 PM  

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