What’s A Voter To Do?

One of my facebook friends is “flummoxed” over the presidential line on the upcoming ballot. For my friend, neither major party candidate is an option, and likewise third-party candidates are a “no.” For the benefit of others in a like dilemma, let me detail the possibilities. If you are like my friend, you’ll know what happens with each of your options. This is a slightly expanded version of a long fb post I put on my friend’s page:

Assuming the auditor’s office in your county works the same as mine in the state of Washington, let me tell you what happens to a write-in. Before a ballot here can be processed with write-in votes, it must be pulled and read by a human election official. We want to be able to see that an authorized write-in, like “Evan McMullin” gets the vote, even if the voter spelled it “Even Mullin.” Or something like that.

Election officials, sometimes working in a pairs, have to make a judgment call on such situations. For the presidential race, you can write in anybody’s name you can spell, but that doesn’t mean the person, even a real live person, will get a vote. In my state, many candidates are on the ballot running for president. More women than men, by the way. But if a write-in hasn’t met the criteria for being a write-in, the vote won’t count.

If voters wish to write in “Bernie Sanders” they can do so. But since the senator from the Green Mountain State hasn’t authorized himself as a write-in, the vote won’t count. If other offices have been checked, then the rest of the ballot will certainly count. Just not the president/vice-president slot. The same effect would be reached by voting for no candidate.

“Mickey Mouse” is another option I’ve seen. Before election officials process ballots, they will read write-in lines. Sometimes the name written in is serious, so we take it seriously. A fictional character written in will result in spending some seconds in discerning what to do in the county administration building.

I wouldn’t tell somebody not to write the name of imaginary characters on their ballot and vote for them. I’m just saying the net result is the same as checking no box. Since we don’t send ballots to the major parties, believe me that these “protest” votes will amuse or slightly annoy election officials. Party people do not see them. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

As I’ve inspected other ballots, I’ve noticed a relative few voters are leaving the presidential race blank. These ballots will process easily through the computer with a minimum of handling. And there is no doubt about the intent of the voter in these. However, more voters make a presidential selection only. As far as I know, only the numbers of votes are tracked in each race, not the number of ballots with the presidential choice left blank. Maybe it would be nice if political races had a “none of the above” option. Then you have to deal with the situation if “none” wins an election. Maybe that would be something to deal with, but the system isn’t equipped for it right now.

What’s a sensitive and moral voter to do? I suppose you could do what I did with some number of bishops when the cover-up scandal was in full flower: I wrote to them. I doubt a letter to a major party presidential candidate would have any impact. But one could share one’s opinions and tget these off one’s chest. And if one could do so without making threats, then one might avoid having a file begun in their name at the FBI or the Secret Service.

Alternatively, if one could locate some high-profile politicians in the party of one’s choice in the state of one’s residency, and write to them with your severe misgivings about one or the other candidate, who knows? Maybe one could influence somebody with an office in the state capital or somewhere closer. Maybe somebody who, one day, will have something on her or his mind when they meet with the next president and are consulted on a decision that requires a moral compass of some sort. And maybe the tick of one’s magnetic field from one’s own moral compass will register in somebody who might be faintly open to a change of direction, slight or otherwise.

After Mr Obama’s victory in 2008, there was one high-profile letter sent to the president-elect with a number of signatories on it. Unbeknownst to many Republican Catholics, I was one of two or three ghostwriters on that project. Another blogger sent me an early draft for my input and I made some substantial edits I later saw in the final version that went to the president and was published elsewhere. Psst: don’t tell Deal Hudson, lol.

Seriously, I think there is even more value in writing letters today. Most people are into the facebook memes and expressing their anger at life by criticizing politicians with suggestions of prison, sex, the elimination of waste, or even the animal Equus africanus. I suppose I would ask the question: do you want to invest in making real change where you can in your country, or do you prefer to stew in your feelings?

Meanwhile, any other questions about the voting process, ask them in the combox below. I’ll be working election day next week. And I’ll be glad to do it, as I have for about twenty-some voting days since the second Tuesday in 2008’s November. Ad multos annos, Americans.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to What’s A Voter To Do?

  1. You say… “I suppose I would ask the question: do you want to invest in making real change where you can in your country, or do you prefer to stew in your feelings?” And I say – AMEN! Best line ever.

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