One of the most appalling things that I always notice in regards to the gross dysfunction of American governments is the fact that we constantly fail to replicate successful, time tested, laws and policies, while passing others that seem as though they were thought up by crack addicts…or maybe those guys who sit in the dark on crystal meth designing modern children’s cartoons.
Here is my best example of this phenomenon: I was a citizen of the state of Oregon about ten years ago. They have mandatory mail-in-voting in the state. It is an arrangement that has been in place for a long time, and although there are always people around to bicker and whine about it, most people will admit that it is an excellent system.
The ballots arrive in the mail for all registered voters. They have a great deal of time to fill out their ballots before election day, and they can either return them by mail, or drop them off at a local courthouse or other designated voting spot. I loved the system so much that I still always register to vote absentee, even though I have the option not to.
Not only do Oregon ballots come in the mail, they come along with this fucking brilliant little voting guide. In the guide all of the candidates are listed along with all of the measures up for vote, and they are listed along with a brief description of what they stand for (for candidates), and what sort of change each measure will effect.
In addition to all of this, there is also room allotted in the voter’s guide for organizations to add endorsements for candidates or measures that they support. It was phenomenally helpful when voting to know whether the ACLU was endorsing a measure or whether my local Rotary group endorsed a certain candidate.
I remember sitting with my old roommate and reading through the entire voter’s guide one year. We discussed every candidate and every measure. That year I am very confident that I made the most well educated selections on my ballot that I have ever made in my life.
Most people loathe political ads; we simply do not want to listen to that garbage. The ads that are sent out in the mail go straight into the trash or the recycling in most homes; I don’t know a single person who reads them. When was the last time that you actually watched a gubernatorial debate?
In most states we are grossly undereducated when we vote, even if we actually do make the effort to go out and vote, and it is absolutely, pathetically, asinine! I have literally filled out ballots in the past and wondered why I even bothered. Factual information pertaining to elections in most states is frigging excruciating to locate.
And so, why in the hell, have other states not adopted this incredibly intelligent, highly functional method of encouraging voters to vote, of educating them in voting, and in making them feel confident about the candidates and measures that they choose to vote for?
There are many answers to that question. I believe the resounding one is, unfortunately, that most of the people in power probably believe that they have better control of the masses if they keep us guessing blindly when we vote. They also understand that they have more control if people are discouraged from voting at all.
We have a responsibility to change this. It is our job as citizens. We must start making very simple, very clear demands, and one of those must be that every voter has easy access to factual information when it comes to each election.
There are masses of things that need to be done, but if I can think of one thing about our governments that is absolutely fucking vile in its corruption, it is the fact that we are being systematically spun into confusion by those very governments when it comes to choosing how we will vote.
Simple, straightforward, easily accessible information is something that we must all absolutely demand from the systems in place. Without it, democracy is incapable of functioning correctly. Is democracy working out well for you?