Even If You Can’t Vote by Faith, by Party, or by Common Sense, Vote Anyway.

Voting stickerAfter being raised in a household free of overt political discussion, I never had any idea which political party was mine. A moment of clarity arrived in eleventh-grade Physics class when a fellow student named Jeff sought to offer me personal definition: he asked me my views on abortion. I gave him an answer. He told me which party was mine. To him, it was as simple as that. I decided then and there that the two-party monopoly left a lot to be desired. Thus was my head sent spinning into years of aimless political apathy, college-campus pluralism, irritatingly noncommittal neutrality, alternative-newspaper perusal, and Jello Biafra spoken-word albums. Truly it was a time of intellectual isolation for me, though the accompanying music could be cool at times.

Two decades later, I’m no more into taking arbitrary sides, generalizing entire parties based on the actions of a single faction, or collecting campaign buttons than I was in my misanthropic youth. However, at least now I can say I’m participating in the voting process anyway, because the small local elections are close enough to home that the votes really can make a difference, free of interference from unhelpful interlopers like the Electoral College. Also, just because I can.

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If a Ballot Has Only One Candidate, Does it Still Count as Voting?

Tuesday, May 8th, is Indiana’s primary at last. It matters not a whit on the national stage, but our local elections can occasionally be intriguing to watch. Sometimes they even have ramifications.

On Election Day in November, I vote without regard for party lines because they’re meaningless to me and I wish they’d go away. Pick any belief, and you can find a supporter on either the Marvel or DC Coke or Pepsi Elvis or Beatles Democrat or Republican side. It’s an arbitrary team sport. In primaries, I’m a Democrat for the worst possible reasons.

When I registered to vote in 1992, I had the choice of registering as Democrat or Republican. End of choices. A or B. 0 or 1. Jack Johnson or John Jackson. No other parties were listed on the form, and there was no write-in blank to select a label of my own choosing such as “conscientious objector to the electoral process” or “Goonie”. At the time I was an apathetic agnostic who wanted to exercise his right to vote without any real direction or interest in the process itself. I settled on “Democrat” because gas prices had skyrocketed to an annoying $1.29 per gallon, and this persnickety, indebted college student just knew it was George Bush’s fault somehow. I had to send him a message, and listening to Jello Biafra speeches over and over on my Walkman clearly wasn’t getting through to him.

(This is why you don’t corner me and ask me to make snap decisions about topics on which I’m woefully unqualified. If I’d been the captive parent faced with the cruelty of Sophie’s Choice, I would’ve hemmed, hawed, and then gone with a gut feeling based on each boy’s GPA.)

I’ve retained the “Democrat” label to this day because participation requires a label. I’m not interested in researching my options for party realignment. No proof of allegiance is even required, just a willingness to engage in the process, for worse or for worst. Besides, the contention between Democratic primary candidates is often…um, interesting. Consider, for example, the Presidential primaries of 2008, when the only two real options remaining on Indiana’s primary ballot were Making Black History or Bride of the Monster.

Using the Indianapolis Star‘s handy online voter guide, my options for the 2012 primaries under my assigned label appear as follows, summarized as I go without preparation:

President: Obviously foregone.

US Senator: Also foregone. Incumbent Joe Donnelly is locked in.

US Representative: Four whole choices before me! At last, some comparisons to draw. The incumbent is a Muslim whose predecessor in office was his grandmother, who in turn was beloved by her district. Of his three contenders, one proudly stated on his questionnaire that he’s Christian “and not a Muslim.” One has centered his entire platform on the forthright message of “Obamacare SUCKS.” One failed to complete the Star‘s survey and obviously hates when people vote for him. I’ll have to sleep on this one.

Governor: I didn’t know this was foregone, but John Gregg appears to have no challengers on the Democrat side in his quest to catch the gubernatorial baton from the outgoing Mitch Daniels. Gregg also didn’t bother with the Star‘s survey, which may lose him my vote come November. He might lose it anyway, even if I can’t remember that slight. His opposition will be Republican U.S. representative Mike Pence (one of the few current politicians I genuinely respect) and the Libertarian candidate, Rupert Boneham from TV’s Survivor. Yes, that Rupert. Yes, really. Can’t wait to see that party started.

State Representative: Three candidates: (1) one guy who works for the Star‘s parent company in some capacity; (2) a tax attorney whose tiny profile photo faintly resembles Tracy Morgan but with dignity and class; and (3) a mother of two who has experience working in retirement communities, which probably comprise 90% of our local voting base. If they can remember her, she’s in.

County Coroner: The incumbent, Frank Lloyd Jr., seeks reelection. I don’t understand why this is an elected position. Why not just hire someone? Why require two candidates to stand at podiums and convince you why they are the one true master of autopsies? Politics, shmolitics — Master of Autopsies would be a fantastic reality show. Two coroners walk in; two bodies are pushed in; one walks out. (One coroner, I mean, not one body. Granted, that too would be good televisionin’.)

County Surveyor: Another Democratic incumbent rerun. Her resumé includes the word “pictometry”, which is new to me. For that she can stay, and “pictometry” goes on this week’s vocabulary list.

County Treasurer, and Township Advisory Board: Are all our bases belong to incumbent Democrats? Here I find two more positions in that same predicament. I propose a new rule: every office must have two or more primary contenders, or else that office is canceled till next year due to lack of interest from politician wannabes.

Superior Court Judges: Our marching orders are to vote for ten of the twelve proposed candidates. My votes will be going to one Gulf War vet, all the minorities I can detect, and an additional non-incumbent. That still leaves three unused votes, which by fiat may end up going to the youngest-looking of the last men standing. I’m sorry, but I have little else to sway me here. The surveys have far fewer questions than they did in past years. Most of the answers in this category were dry legalese and of little help for my personal discernment preferences. I suppose I could instead base my votes on whether their religion of choice is a Christian denomination or just plain Christian.

Disappointing results in hindsight: out of ten possible races, only three of them will require actual decision-making from us “Democrat” voters. See, this kind of sloppiness is what happens when I try to finish an assignment the night before it’s due. If I’d consulted the voter guide sooner, I would’ve known that only three races invite any real Internet research. Too bad the Star didn’t ask the candidates for their GPAs.

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