As speed picks up in the run towards election day, candidates, parties and interest groups will try to influence turnout among their loyalists. If you haven’t heard it yet, elections belong to those who show up. Or at least to those with the best legal team to manage the recount.
Ideas to re-arrange our system have ranged from two-day voting to voting on weekends to making Election Day a national holiday. Or simply requiring that everyone cast a ballot or be fined. All worthy of consideration, except that last one.
Right now it’s a chore and an interruption. You have to travel to some community room or a church that you only go to on Election Day, wait for the judge to find you on the printout, take your ballot to the tiny desk on spindly legs, remember how to use a pencil, and let the guessing begin!
Those who consistently go to the trouble of voting in the General Elections and the Primary (August 14th!) do so out of civic pride, genuine involvement in and respect for participatory democracy, habit, spite, and of course, the little red “I Voted” lapel sticker.
That sticker is the one frivolous and fun element in the whole process. What do we spend on those, anyway? Look for that municipal budget line to come under attack from the tax scolds, if it hasn’t already. Why are you wasting my hard-earned dollars on stickers for old people? Can’t they re-use the ones they kept from 1948? This is robbery!
Where’s the delight, the whimsy, and the outright fun in voting?
It appears to have moved online, where it is always Election Day.
Just yesterday, I elected to endorse a new Ice Cream flavor that I may someday have the opportunity to eat. Beth-Ann’s idea for Mini-sota Donut Ice Cream is before the electorate right now and they payoff could appear in my local freezer case by next year. In terms of how things move politically, that would be a speed-of-lightning result. Already it’s more satisfying than my vote for McGovern in 1972. And in the Ice Cream Election, you get to leave comments when you vote – something we won’t be able to do in the margins surrounding those Constitutional Amendments without spoiling the ballot.
Another online electoral process I’ve enjoyed lately is the opportunity to send Target Gift Cards to schools. Each Facebook “like” equals one dollar. Every group of 25 “likes” releases a $25 gift card and you get the chance to vote once a week between now and September 8. Each school is limited to a total haul of ten thousand dollars, but so far no one is close. The leading school so far (a faith-based Pennsylvania Prep Academy) is just over 800. My personal choice is Craigmont High, a public high school in Memphis, Tennessee, where my son Gus will start work as a math teacher this Monday morning. They’ve just earned their first gift card – enough for six 12-count boxes of Crayola Erasable Twist Colored Pencils.
If these ideas seem too frivolous, you can always direct resources to famine relief in Africa by taking a moment to “like” the two-person Olympic team from Somalia. Both members of the squad lost their races yesterday to people who didn’t have to train on city streets pockmarked by explosion craters. But their participation in London means you still have the opportunity to vote for humanitarian aid with the click of a mouse.
How would you change Election Day to make it more engaging and fun?