Ballot Box Blues

Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and boy does every U.S. citizen have something for which to be thankful–midterm elections are over. Yahoo! Now we can all eat dinner in peace without robocalls intruding. We can go back to watching commercials for the “little blue pill” rather than being assaulted by some venom-spewing political ad informing us that the candidate’s opponent is the devil incarnate who, if elected, will send his constituents to hell in a hand basket. Yup. There’s nothing civil about civics these days.

Once upon a time I was a naïve political science major in college. I pored over large and expensive textbooks in an effort to learn how our government works and of course to get an A in the course. Degree in hand, I innocently headed off to work at the State Capitol Building in Atlanta to participate in the hallowed government process. What a rude awakening I had. What is supposed to happen and what in reality happens are two different things. I was extremely disillusioned.

Fast forward to the 2018 midterm elections. A few years (OK, a lot of years) have passed, and politics is even worse than when I graduated from college.  But like a moth to a flame, I am drawn to observe our government at work. I just cannot look away. And as nauseating as watching the process is, it is my duty as a citizen to stay informed and to participate in elections.

No one likes a negative Nelly. On a positive note, a great development since my college graduation is the implementation of early voting. Voters are given ample opportunity to vote–not simply a twelve hour period on one specific day. No longer can you avoid voting because you have a headache on Election Day or because it’s raining and you can’t seem to find your umbrella to get to the polls.

Early voting is quite the hit. In fact, approximately 36 million voters voted early in this election. That figure led to predictions that voter turnout would be much higher than usual for the midterm elections. A “high” voter turnout is a relative term. Edison Media Research predicted in advance of the election that 45% of the eligible voting population would vote. We can’t even get 50% of eligible voters to vote and that’s good news??? SMH

And just who is doing this voting? Are they educating themselves on the issues? Reviewing the ballot in advance of voting? Um, probably not for a great many voters. Why do I come to that conclusion? According to news reports, “donde votar” (“where to vote” for those of you who do not habla espanol) was the top trending search (3,000% increase in search frequency) the morning of election day. I’m assuming that people who don’t even know where they are supposed to vote haven’t checked in advance to see what they are voting about either.

The midterm elections are aptly named in my opinion. All the divisiveness, negativity, and hounding of voters this go round has been a test of my patience. I am not sure that the average voter even knows what a midterm election is. Certainly all of those reading this blog post are aware that it is a general election held in November every four years near the midpoint of a president’s four year term. Such an election is typically viewed as a referendum on a sitting president and his party’s performance.

Much was at stake in this week’s midterm elections. Thirty-six states, including Florida, were holding gubernatorial elections. The Senate’s slim Republican majority of 51-49 was in jeopardy from a slate of Congressional races. Would the balance shift from red to blue?

A bunch of red appeared early on Election Day. Poll workers at a voting site  in Detroit, Michigan were left red in the face and voters were red with anger when an untold number of early morning voters  had to be turned away. Why? Oops. Poll workers couldn’t seem to locate the voting machines. Whew! They were finally found in a locked closet on site, but the polling place opened an hour and a half late. Even poll workers apparently put things in a “safe” place and then can’t remember where that “safe” place was.

Once voters made it to the polls and machines were in place for them to vote, on what were they voting? In addition to electing governors and congressmen, in Florida there were  a hefty number of constitutional amendments to consider. Most of the time such amendments boggle my mind–not that I cannot understand them, but that I cannot fathom why the issue has to be handled by a constitutional amendment. A constitution, by definition, is a body of fundamental laws for governing. Not that I don’t care about the plight of poor greyhounds who are being raced, but can’t we just pass a law to outlaw the sport?

The slate of amendments offered in Florida was affected by a severe case of bundling. Sure, it’s November, and in a northern state you might need to bundle up against the cold. Here in Florida the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) thought bundling of issues would be the way to go. Um, no. Bundling occurs when two or more unrelated issues are grouped together in one amendment. For example, Amendment 9 asked voters to approve a ban on offshore drilling and on indoor vaping. And the connection between those two is…..what? No wonder some people don’t want to go vote when they are asked to consider propositions that doesn’t make any sense.

The only bright spot in the election coverage was the burning question of whether Meghan Markle could/would vote in the midterm elections. She’s a royal and in the process of seeking British citizenship, so that question is thought-provoking. But I’ll bet that voters are more interested in what Meghan would wear to the polls (or to mark her absentee ballot) and if her baby bump was visible when she did so than the political ramifications of her voting.

I vote that we put the midterm elections, their confusion, their divisiveness, and their nonsense behind us. Enjoy dinnertime without annoying political calls. The next election will be here before we know it so we can all sing the next stanza of “Ballot Box Blues.”

Just WONDER-ing: Did you vote in the midterm elections? Did you vote early? Did the ability to vote early make it more likely you voted? Did political ads seem more divisive and negative in this election than in past elections?