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shopping for senators
no excuses
by travis v broughton

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. On my list: a handful of Democrats, a few Republicans, a Libertarian, and a referendum. Not on my list: groceries. Here in Texas, like many places, early voting is becoming increasingly widespread -- in grocery stores, malls, and other places people frequently go. And here in Austin, we're pleased that we're going to get about 40% turnout this year.

Forty per cent. Of registered voters. And we're proud of this. I think I'm going to be sick.

Motor voter and other recent initiatives have made it pretty hard to avoid registering to vote. It's almost making a conscientious decision nowadays: "No, I don't care about the government of my country, please don't register me to vote." It's also pretty hard to avoid being in a polling place; it's not really "election day" anymore, either, it's "election month".

The candidates carpet-bomb us with political ads. It's practically impossible not to have an opinion on a candidate, whether that opinion is informed or not. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard the names of some candidates in the big races in your area -- Governor, Senator, Representative, etc. You've probably heard that there's a pretty decent chance that the Republicans could take over control of both houses of Congress, or that there's a decent chance that the Democrats could keep control of something. And you probably have some feelings, one way or another, about the prospect of Bush having an easy time getting partisan legislation passed. And still, people aren't voting.

But back to the grocery store. Yesterday was the last day of early voting in Austin. At 2:00 in the afternoon, I stood in line for approx. 30 minutes, about the same amount of time I would have spent grocery shopping. My wife voted at the mall the day before, and didn't have to wait at all. Surely more than 40% of the people in Austin visit a grocery store or mall over the course of the month -- I've been about 6 times, myself.

The new voting technology appeals to the geek in me -- a "voting slate", which looks like an iPaq on steriods. For those scared by modern technology, there were lots of volunteers around demonstrating how to use the machine.

It turned out that I had been a slacker, not updating my voter registration when I bought my house last year. "Not a problem," they told me. Step out of line, fill out a form, and presto-chango, my registration, address, and district info were updated before I got to the voting booth.

The electoral process seems to be improving -- the processes of registering and voting are being combined with activities that most Americans do on a regular basis. Still, we don't vote. Well, I did. So I expect to see that "I Voted" sticker if you start bitching about privatized social security, the war on Iraq, or any other opinion that you could have voiced, in a very tangible way, to your representation in government.


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jael mchenry
11.11.02 @ 2:29p

Well, I could have voted in a way that counts, except that I live in Washington DC.

So, no voting representation for me. But I might stick my tongue out at GWB the next time the motorcade goes by.

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