Thursday, October 30, 2008

Want or Need to Avoid Long Lines? Go Vote Absentee. Right Now.

Yes, you can. There is nothing to stop you. If you are worried about the expected long lines on Election Day and feel like that might keep you from voting, take mild-mannered columnist Peter Luke's advice and go exercise your right to vote right now. Just convince yourself that you are going out of town that day. If you feel guilty about that, then by all means, actually go out of town that day. Take a little trip and enjoy what's left of the fall colors, spend a few tourism dollars, and help out the Michigan economy. Go visit Aunt Betty in Battle Creek or Beulah or Burton. Whatever makes you feel better. And if not, well, it's not like the pols have been fair to you. There is always that.

Candidates seeking to run state government are permitted to tell outright falsehoods to voters. But checking the box that you expect to be out of town on Election Day when you probably expect to be in town is supposedly criminal behavior.

Truth is, local clerks aren't going to send out the absentee voting police to verify your absence from the city limits on Election Day if your expectation of being out of town changed. The Michigan Association of County Clerks has been pushing for no-reason absentee voting for years.

The deadline to apply by mail for an absentee ballot expired Saturday, Oct. 25. But voters can trek to their friendly city or township clerk's office through Monday, Nov. 3 and ask for one. You can fill out your ballot right there or take it home and mail it back. It's due back by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters requesting an absentee ballot on Nov. 3 must fill it out at the clerk's office. Since clerks offices will be
open Nov. 1 until 2 p.m., you can even go vote on a Saturday.

If you can, do it to help democracy flow a little faster. One less body in line this year might keep someone else from leaving because they have to get back to work, or pick up the kids, or whatever it is that might prevent them from staying for the wait to vote. You will be doing the poll workers and your fellow citizens a great service - well worth the small bit of civil disobedience.

If you need more incentive, do it to stick your thumb in the eye of the Michigan Legislature, which has done nothing to help you, the tax-paying voter, to vote.

In the past decade, nearly 30 bills have been introduced to permit no-reason absentee voting. None have come close to becoming law. And though some 30 other states allow for some form of no-excuse absentee or early voting, there are just six legal grounds on which you, the Michigan voter, can cast an absentee ballot.

The best reason yet? Do it to piss off the Republicans. They don't want you to vote, as evidenced by their attempts to obstruct all these bills and find other ways to prevent you from voting (see: Cox, Mike). Luke explains:

House Democrats support no-reason absentee voting, but they didn't get around to actually passing a bill, introduced in early 2007, until late last month after all the absentee voter applications already had been printed.

It wasn't going anywhere anyway in the Republican-run Senate. The Michigan GOP, its county clerks excepted, generally opposes no reason absentee voting on the strategic grounds that the more people who vote, the worse Republicans fare on Election Day.

Annoy Mike Bishop. Go vote early if you can.