365 Days of Earrings

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

America's Failure to Vote

I voted tonight. It's an off year election--no president, no senators, no members of congress. I voted for a state senator, a state representative, a county supervisor, and some other local positions. Voting is one of the great privileges and responsibilities of a democracy, and yet many Americans do not vote. Why not?

I'm sure there are many explanations. But it is clear to me is that to vote you need transportation, time, and knowledge.

To vote, I have to drive 15 miles from home. I work in the opposite direction from my assigned polling place. So either before or after work, I have to drive 30 miles (more than a gallon of gas at $3.33 per gallon).

I do not have the option to vote on another day. There is no early voting in Virginia. Fortunately, I no longer am driving children to soccer practice or music lessons. I work only one job. I have no elderly relatives to care for. I can afford a car and gas. I have transportation and I have time.

Election Day is the second Tuesday in November, a holdover from America's agricultural past, I've read. But why? Why not make it possible to vote over the weekend? Or vote on a federal holiday that celebrates our electoral freedom? Why make voting a challenge for busy working people, for people with families, for people who have limited resources?

I wore this pair of earrings that I made from paper beads rolled in Uganda at a women's cooperative, part of Bead for Life. In many developing countries, the turn-out is better than in American elections. Wikipedia offers a fascinating table showing America's poor participation in voting:


I was saddened to see a sign proclaiming that I should show an ID in order to vote. I have a driver's license. I can present an ID. The sign also stated that I could fill out a statement affirming my identity. What would that entail, I wondered? I considered that option, but I just handed over my ID. Why hassle the friendly volunteers?

Voting requires effort. I'd like voting to become less difficult. News stories indicate that voting is going to become increasingly difficult as more states require ID cards. I'd like to help people acquire ID before the 2012 election.

A goal for 2012. If America is at 48%, well below all other industrialized countries, something must be done.

 New ZealandN1288%
 Czech RepublicN285%
 Costa RicaN881%
 United KingdomN976%
 South KoreaN1175%
 United StatesN1848%***

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