Election Season

Tomorrow happens to be election day in a multitude of American communities, although we aren’t voting on anything interesting up here, just a school board appointment. I can’t help but wonder how much money our regional election is costing, and being a bit depressed by the fact that there’s only one item on the ballot. And of course next year is going to be a major election, so everyone’s getting all riled up in advance. Hopefully the kerfuffle over electronic voting will have resolved itself and we’ll be back to the good old paper ballots by then.

However, I know that other communities are dealing with a multitude of more interesting issues, like mayoral elections and important initiatives. I’m of the opinion that voting is always important, which is why I am registered as a permanent absentee voter, so that laziness cannot interfere with my voting. I got my ballot about three weeks ago and I duly mailed it back with my selection for school board, but I almost wish I was still living in San Francisco so that I could vote for Chicken John.

San Francisco also has this cool, novel, and wonderful system called ranked choice voting. Now, my European readers might be rolling your eyes because you guys got on the ranked choice bandwagon a long time ago, but in the United States it’s still a very novel and almost scary concept for some people. Imagine being able to rank the candidates by preference! You could vote your conscience and support the candidate you actually like, rather than just voting for the safe guy! How awesome would that be?

I hope that ranked choice voting will eventually come to the entire United States, preferably in time for the 2008 election, although I would settle for 2012. I think that it would radically reform American politics, by allowing people to vote for the candidates they liked, rather than sticking to the two major parties. We might see a rise of power along the fringes, and that could really alter the way this country is run. It would be awesome to see third party candidates in Congress, and perhaps in the office of the Presidency some day.

I have a tough time with American politics because many people break it down into Democrats and Republicans, and it isn’t that simple, and I’m not quite sure when it became that simple for so many. I’m not a Democrat, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you, but that doesn’t make me a Republican. I’m not totally behind any political party, which is why I registered non-partisan, to have some freedom of choice. Unfortunately, only the major parties let me vote their ballots.

(Er, for those of you who are confused by what I just said, in primary elections in California, and I think in many other states as well, you are given a party specific ballot. So when you’re non-partisan, you are theoretically able to pick a ballot from any party, but not all parties will let you vote their ballot; I usually end up taking a Democratic ballot so I can support the least crappy Democratic candidate.)

Lots of people don’t take voting nearly seriously enough, in my opinion, which is a bummer, because it kind of means that our so-called democracy is basically broken. I would like to see people educating themselves about the issue, and thinking critically about politics in general so that they could make informed, useful choices rather than shitty ones.

So, tell me about your local ballots, American readers. What are you voting on? How do you feel about the candidates and initiatives on your local ballot? Do you think the system is broken too?