Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vote. EARLY.

Justify FullYou've seen the bumper stickers, you've heard your friends wax self-righteous that they've already done it. Now it's your turn: Vote, dangit.

Ten days to go, and here's why you want to vote now. Not tomorrow, not next week, and definitely not on election day.

I sat in on a meeting a few days ago for partisan volunteers who are aiming to work the precincts on election day. It was an interesting talk, from a strategy perspective. The on-the-ground democratic strategizers are predicting - assuming, preparing for - regular and systematic challenges to every voter with any iota of irregularity worth challenging in any precinct that has traditionally leaned blue. A misspelling of a long ethnic name, a discrepancy between "street" and "avenue" on your drivers license, a typo that transposes a couple of numbers in the address on your voter registration card. If you live in a heavily democratic zone, expect there to be any guff that can be cooked up over your right to vote. It may not happen, this may be a regional over-reaction to national scrapping between the big guns, but after Florida circa 2000? I'm not gonna call it conspiracy theory; the democratic brass aren't calling it that either.

In historically democratic precincts, it won't just be about throwing individuals off the rolls - that's small potatoes. The real goods are in a different goal: slowing down the lines at the polls until people by the handful or the dozen or the hundred get bored, cold, or compelled to go back to work/pick up their kids from daycare/return to the demands of their lives before they reach the front of the line to cast their vote in those blue-hued precincts. Even if your personal data line up like the moon in the seventh house, the time will be taken - if you are in those precincts - to inspect your credentials. Slowly. Carefully. Painstakingly. Just, ya know, to make sure you're legit. While someone in line behind you considers if they can really wait another five minutes before their kid's daycare closes, or their afternoon shift starts, or that chill in the November air turns out to be too much for their elderly lungs.

It is difficult to face this head on right there on election day. It's an effective strategy, one that is easily wrapped in the patriotic flag of protecting the integrity of the vote - wouldn't want all the Mickey Mouses that ACORN registered (that surely slid right through the voter verification process, natch) to actually cast any of those fraudulent votes, you know.

But there is a counter-strategy, and this is it: vote early before the deadline grows short on those long lines. Maybe you'll be that person who will leave the line if you have to wait more than half an hour that day; make your vote count by going to vote this weekend or some day between when you don't have that pressure on you. Maybe you will have all day and then some to wait in line on November 4th: doesn't matter, your presence in line that day will make the line incrementally that much longer, and you may be the straw in the camel's back that causes another voter to leave because the line is just too long.

No one who has the ability and the wherewithal to vote before November 4th should be taking a space in line that day.

Especially not in historically democratic precincts. Especially not with the stakes so high, and the potential so overwhelming for shifting not only the presidency, but the House, the Senate, and a whole raft of local races toward a more tolerant, peaceable, and progressive future.

Now, I know, not every state has early voting. So you can preemptively excuse yourself from my brow-beating if you are from Maryland, Rhode Island, or Washington (Oregonians: hats off to you for running another 100% mail-in/drop-off election - a great end-run around this kind of meddling in the rights of working people to cast their votes).

And if you are one of those people who have the time to take off a half day, or even a whole day? Consider hiking your own bad ass down to your local democratic headquarters this weekend to see if they are recruiting volunteers to work on election day. In my region, the main block of volunteers will not be used to defend vote challenges or get tangled up in arguments over whose driver's license is legit, but will be outside on the lines in target precincts bringing warm beverages, bottled water, snacks, chairs, coats, whatever might be needed to keep every voter from leaving that line before they have cast their vote. Even if you drop your ballot for a Green or an independent candidate, you can bet that protecting voter rights in democratic districts where the republicans will be targeting their voter challenges will be a likely way to protect the other independent-minded voters among us. It's a chance to participate in democracy in a larger way than just hanging your chad and moving along; you might even meet some interesting folk.

And if you can't afford to spend election day at the polls, even better reason: Vote. Now.