Voting in California is soooo convenient!Bottom Highlights, Online Only, Politically Aware Thursday, October 4th, 2012
BY JOEL TRAMBLEY
When I moved from Atlanta to San Francisco, I missed my first chance to vote. I was able to register when I got my California driver’s license, but when election day came around, I didn’t know where my precinct was and I was a medical intern, working from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Back then, I considered abdicating my civic duty to be regrettable, but forgivable.
If that were ever really true in the Golden State, it isn’t anymore. Recent election law changes, capped by on-line voter registration last month, mean that you don’t need a polling place or free time on Election Day to vote. In fact, you never have to leave your house. Seriously.
For potential voters with a driver’s license, the entire registration process can be done on-line; those without a signature on file may have to print and mail in a form. Anyone can choose to be a permanent absentee voter and get a ballot in the mail. Fill it out at your leisure, print some postage at stamps.com, and mail it in. Sooner is better, not only because your ballot must be received (not just post-marked) by Election Day, but having already voted will get you off various candidate and party call lists, making your evenings a bit quieter. If you procrastinate until you’re concerned the mail won’t be fast enough, you can drop it off at the Registrar of Voters when open or at any polling place on Election Day.
It’s a good thing that the hurdles to voting in California have dropped, because lives are literally at stake. While marriage equality is not on the ballot in California, a proposition to replace the death penalty with life in prison is, along with measures affecting education funding, human trafficking, and political donations. That is all in addition to the presidential, senatorial, congressional, county supervisorial, mayoral, and city council elections. Kind of makes it hard for anyone to claim the election won’t affect them, or the LGBT community.
Unfortunately, the impact of elections on our community is outpacing our impact on them. Our once lauded advantage in technology use has declined as other groups have come on-line with social media and voter ID applications. Despite increasing visibility as donors, our contributions to candidates and lobbying efforts are dwarfed by social conservatives.
Fortunately, the best way to increase our political power is now one of the easiest. Vote. And get others to vote. If the ease and the need aren’t persuasive, consider the duty and privilege.
Democracy only works with an engaged and voting electorate. We are still a nation at war, with servicemembers and diplomats risking their lives to support freedom at home and abroad. In some of the nascent democracies they helped to create and protect, voters not only have to leave their houses, but dodge thugs and militias to cast a ballot. What does it say if you won’t even log on?
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