Livin' it up, American style

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Don't forget to vote!

I stand by my previous predictions; Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Bob Corker, Lincoln Chaffee and Jim Webb will be elected or reelected to the US Senate. I also think the Democrats will pick up one of the houses, but I'm not sure which, and it will only be by 1 or 2 seats. I wouldn't really be that surprised if they didn't win a majority in either house, but we'll see.

They're already reporting voting problems in several states. I don't understand why America has such problems with its voting. India can hold elections in a country of 1 billion people without near as many problems as America. But we have to have fancy computerized touch screen voting machines. Why can't ballots just be like the Scantron tests we would take in high school? You're given this half sheet of paper that is numbered through 100, and has 4 round bubbles with A, B, C, and D in each of them. Then you have a testing booklet that has all the questions or elections numbered and all the answer choices have letters, and you just fill in the corresponding bubble on the answer sheet. Then these answer sheets get zoomed through a machine, or checked by people to see who you voted for. It's easy, and it's a format that at least all younger people are very familiar with. You can also recheck your answers, and since you have to use a pencil, you can change any mistaken votes. So much more comforting then voting on a touch computer screen and never getting a paper receipt that confirms you voted for the right people.

I'm very disappointed that the trend in America has been to make voting more difficult. More and more states are requiring voters to have government issued ID's. At first that doesn't seem so difficult, I mean, everyone has a driver's license, right? Well, there are a few segments of the population that often don't have driver's licenses-poor people who may not own cars and rely on public transportation (remember Katrina?), and older people who can't drive anymore or live in nursing homes and don't get out much. They don't need driver's licenses. So are we not going to let them vote? Unfortunately, some people, usually Republican lawmakers, are saying they shouldn't get to vote. And really, it makes sense because these populations are not big Republican strongholds. (I'm not being petty here, it is overwhelmingly Republicans who are calling for all these restrictions on voters).

But, requiring a government ID is almost tantamount to a poll tax. It costs about $20 for a driver's license in Ohio and Tennessee, but you can only get one of these if you've previously owned a license in the past. A non-driver ID in Ohio is only $8.50, but $19.50 in Tennessee. You also have to have transportation to the nearest license bureau, which I've never lived closer than 15-20 minutes to one. Then you need to have the time to wait for your ID, because if you're getting your license in a big city, like Nashville, you will wait for hours on a Saturday, unless you want to lose money on a work day and take time off to get your license on a less busier weekday. Oh, and you'd better be able to speak English, or be able to bring a English fluent friend along. During my hours of sitting in the Nashville license bureau, I saw many Hispanics struggling to communicate with the license people who didn't speak a word of Spanish.

I just think there has to be a less restrictive way to let people vote. If we have to have ID's for national security or to prevent fraud or whatever, then why not include college ID'S, work ID's, passports, social security cards, birth certificates, expired driver's licenses, or an electric or water or rent bill with your name and address on it? We should make it as easy as possible for people to vote, not harder.


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