Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Rock the Vote, Kind Of

My parents voted in every single election. I remember sitting in the car with them while they argued over the issue of whether our little Connecticut town should have its own police department, or whether it should be under the state police’s jurisdiction. Sure, it would probably save the town a lot of money. But how much coverage would my town have gotten from the state police? On the way home from the polls I listened from the backseat as Mom and Dad discussed how they’d voted on the different referenda questions. On the issue of the town police department Mom had voted one way and Dad voted the other. (My town did retain its own police department after that election, by the way.)

I have always felt guilty about not voting in the midterm elections. My parents always voted because they came from a country where they didn’t have that right, so they made sure that their voice was heard. I vowed to do it differently this year and to make my parents proud. I am currently sporting my “I Voted” sticker, and I wear it with pride.

On Sunday night Todd and I sat in front of the computer and evaluated the candidates and the state’s referenda questions. We do this before an election so that our votes won’t cancel each other out. Sometimes I pick a candidate that he doesn’t like; sometimes he picks one I don’t like. But we discuss and agree on our choices before hitting the polls. (For example, a few years ago we’d discussed whether ex-cons should have the right to vote after serving their time, as was the referendum question that year. I said yes and he said no. We discussed it and I made the point “Well, if we want them to be a functioning part of society after doing time, then this is part of being a member of society.” Then I brought up a friend of ours who is an ex-con and said “So, you think he shouldn’t get a vote?” He changed his answer to yes.)

This morning we went to a church near our house to cast our votes. I had a list in hand of all the candidates we agreed on. What I wasn’t prepared for was the referenda questions from my town. They were on a yellow ballot. I read them and didn’t understand a damn thing that was on there. For example, on my little yellow ballot this morning were these questions:

  • Shall Article III, Section 3.14 of the Town Charter be amended to provide that no collective bargaining agreement between the Town, including the School Committee, and any labor organization shall become effective unless and until ratified by the majority vote of the Town Council?

  • Shall Article VIII, Section 8.18 of the Town Charter be amended to provide that an all day referendum shall be required when any changes to the capital improvement or operating budget at the financial town meeting exceed $180,000; and Section 8.10 be amended to provide that the capital improvement program and capital budget be approved by the Town Council concurrent with the operating budget?

  • Shall Article XII of the Charter be amended to update titles and functions; Article XIII amended to provide for consistency review of the capital improvement program; Article II be amended to delete local district apportionment by voters rather than population; and should the charter be amended with punctuation and grammar corrections and to achieve gender neutral terminology?

Just what in the hell do these questions mean? I like to think I am a pretty smart person. I watch CNN every morning, I listen to NPR every day on the way to and from work, I read the Providence Journal every day. I have a Masters degree. Yet, I have no fricken clue what these questions mean so I didn’t vote on any of them.

I looked it up on the town’s web site later, and of course there were explanations on the site. Why can’t they write these questions in plain English, rather than in legalese on the ballot? More people would get involved in the issue and more people would make an educated decision rather than an educated guess when voting on these issues that affect my town.

Can I please have a do-over?



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