So far, other than the newspaper- no one has told me how to vote yet. The party machinery, so used to working a last-minute push, with “slate cards” and endorsements in hand hasn’t adjusted to this newfangled expanded voting period. And while the party faithful have no problem checking off all the D’s or R’s on the ballot- the general public would probably rather see a “C” or an “I” next to the candidate’s name.
“C” for challenger that appeals to the growing movement of “throw the bums out” and “I” for incompetent- I mean incumbent, because in most cases, candidates, once elected do a horrible job of communicating how they represent you once they have obtained the nod.
It’s funny- in sports we have all kinds of stats to measure our players’ performance, and although there are some sites that perform indexing on candidates based on voting records, this only goes on at the national level- not so much at the state and nothing on the local level. In addition, when you look at the sheer number of candidates a voter must choose from- it can be mind numbing. Yet, we’re supposed to go in like sheep and vote in a few minutes on a vast number of candidate and issues. Each one, spending huge amounts of money on telling us in rapid-fire sound bites why we should vote for his or her cause/person. The ticker in the right sidebar is showing 3.331 billion right now and counting…
Spending billions on propaganda, is that really a free and equal-opportunity election process? In no other country does this kind of auction for offices take place. What’s even more bothersome is that there are no true “Truth in Advertising” laws that apply to political campaign rhetoric, with a shoot first, pay the consequences after the election oversight system. In a country that’s preoccupied with warning labels, disclosure and fine print- you get more information on a cereal box than you do on campaign literature and almost zero information on the actual ballot.
Even with early voting, sitting at home, trying to research every candidate and issue on the ballot, with an internet connection, there is no single point to find the links to every issue pro and con or every candidate- with at least a set of basic questions with answers. The League of Women Voters sends out a “guide” that adds a paragraph or so- but it’s not even out until a few weeks before the election- and although widely distributed, it’s not reaching all voters.
Campaign season is the one time we could all do without- from the mudslinging crapfest of TV ads- to the roadside garbage signs that spring up like weeds. Imagine if instead, a nicely printed magazine came to every household, complete with mail-in ballots, giving each voter at least a page on each candidate and issue. There would be standard questions plus room for a candidate’s main message- along with links to each candidate’s website for those with internet access (note, you’d be amazed at how many people are on the wrong side of the digital divide when it comes to voters).
Oregon moved to vote by mail years ago- and the fact that we allow it for “early voting” and “absentee” says the process works. We’d save all the money of having poll workers, renting voting spaces, the actual machines and the risk we take of having bad weather on election day. It would truly democratize the process- and, it might serve us much better at engaging voters in a more honest process than what we have now.
Until we have some kind of true campaign finance reform, we’ll be doomed to having the best politicians money can buy. Changing the voting process would be a good first start.