Remember comedian Mike Myers’ Coffee Talk sketches on Saturday Night Live? Current viewers of the show probably don’t even know about Linda Richman and her love of all things Barbra. So what does this have to do with the election? He had a great line in the sketches, when his character got a little ‘verklempt,’ remember?
“Talk amongst yourselves…here’s a topic…”
Two recent election-related stories have had me wanting to reach out and get some friendly discussion started.
Topic 1: Voter ID. I was in Pennsylvania a week ago as the final ruling was going to be made on that state’s new voter id requirements. As a former PA voter, I tried to see both sides of the argument, but ended up ‘verklempt’ over the uproar. As an individual who has had to show a photo id for the past 32+ years to buy groceries, gas, clothes, to cash a check, to get medical care, to even get on to the street where I lived, I couldn’t see how this could be an issue.
Is it possible people can go through life without any type of id? How do you do basic banking? If you use a credit card, many stores ask for some form of ID at the register. If some of these more simple functions of daily life require identification, how can our country not ask for proof of our identity as we perform our most important duty as citizens – casting a vote?
After 32 years of filing absentee ballots, spouse and I were so excited to be able to go to an actual polling booth as new Virginia voters. We had our voter registration cards and our brand new VA driver’s licenses and stepped up to be checked in. No id necessary we were told. Who knew? I just assumed they’d want to be sure we were the Swans.
How do you feel? Is a photo id needed when voting? Is such a requirement necessary to preserve the legitimacy of an election or does it disenfranchise voters?
Topic 2: Absentee voting and the military: Have you seen the recent stories from various news outlets about the surprisingly few number of absentee ballots being requested across the military services? Is this a conspiracy to suppress the military vote, a failure within DOD, or just the result of fewer soldiers being deployed and now able to vote in person? Here are links to some stories on the issue:
Last year Congress enacted the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which requires states to send voters who are out of country their ballots at least 45 days before the election. As you can read in the Fox News link, the Department of Defense states that they are doing everything possible to assist military voters; would you agree?
My feeling is that like everything, it takes two to Tango. Voters have a personal responsibility, too, to take the first step and request an absentee ballot. Okay, I understand that Soldiers on the battlefield may have more to worry about than a getting a ballot, but even in Afghanistan, units surely have Voting Assistance officers. Throughout our time in service, each of our duty stations advertised Voting Assistance during election seasons. There have been individuals outside the Ft. Myer commissary for the past several weeks to help with voter registration, how about at your post?
The most important thing is to vote. Does it surprise you that typically only about 50-percent or less of eligible voters actually vote? While that number climbed to 63% for the 2008 election, it has returned to near apathetic numbers recently. We rank lowest among all other countries that hold elections (Statistics from Mark N. Franklin's "Electoral Participation", found in Controversies in Voting Behavior (2001). Includes only "free" elections.) Remember seeing the photos from Iraq’s first free elections – countless individuals overcoming threat of death to vote and proudly display their purple fingers? That’s the kind of voting enthusiasm we should have here!