Fears Come In All Sizes And Types

I thought long and hard and missed my day yesterday to blog due to farm hell. But now we're finished with harvest and everyone can go back to their own corner, I'm ready to proceed.
What I was thinking about was the horror of election time. Characters are shredded, points are made, and the electorate would like to put ear muffs on the kids.
However, over the years I've been growing ever more aware of things around us not being as I thought they were. Imagine that. As my eyes have been opened and the area behind my ears dried out, I realized that a lot of people don't vote. Then I kept my ears open and discovered that unlike what the news-people will tell you, that it isn't voter apathy that keeps people from voting, but fear; fear of the unknown, fear of making a fool of oneself, and fear of making a mistake. So, I started talking to people, one on one, why they didn't vote--exactly why. Many didn't know how or who to ask. Many didn't know how to decide. Many felt too stupid. I realized that what we needed to help us conquer our fear is a little basic information:

Let us start with how to vote.

To register to vote:
Go to your local driver's license renewal location or your county clerk's office.
You can register as a party member (Democrat, Republican, Communist, whatever your pleasure) or
You can register as an Independent, meaning you're registered to vote, but not declaring a party. If you don't declare a party, you can't vote in their primary--just the general and special elections.

Now you're registered. What next? Call your county clerk, tell them where you live, and ask where the poll will be set up for you. Usually, you are informed by mail. A poll is a place to vote. It can be a school, a government building, or the living room of someone's house.

On voting day, go to the poll, between the hours of 7 AM to 7 PM (hours may change to more but never less) and vote. Some areas allow early voting. Again, call your county clerk and ask if it exists in your local area and how to go about it. There may even be mail-in options.

How to vote? The machines, papers, or whatever necessary to do the job changes regularly. There is always an explanation at the polls on how to use the equipment and someone there to answer any questions or demonstrate them. It is very ok to ask. Ask several times if you need to. Like I said, the equipment changes regularly enough that even a season voter has to ask questions.

What to vote? Ballots or explanation pages are set on tables so that you can read and understand them before actually entering the voting area. They are there to be read by anyone.

How to decide what to vote:
You decide that too. If, when you get into the room, face to face with the ballot, and all of it makes no sense, then finish it without making marks and turn it into the poll lady as if you did. No one will look at it. They can't by law. We have secret ballot in this country. It really is secret. No one sees it except to count from it. Your name is never on a ballot unless you're running for office!

Are you too stupid to vote?
No! You may not be comfortable choosing a president. Fine, don't vote that section. You might not be comfortable voting on a judge position. There is nothing that says a voter has to vote on every issue or even every race on a ballot. If you have a strong opinion on whether your neighborhood needs a new swimming pool and that is one of the issues, then vote your yes or no vote! If you have a little time before voting day and want more information, then look a question up. For example; this November we vote on whether we want to change our wording in our state constitution to clarify our right to bear arms in the state of Kansas. On this one, if you believe it to be an independent, a personal right, then vote yes. If you believe it to be a militia or military right, vote no. Oddly, this has been unclear in our state since before the first world war ended in 1918! You are also free to NOT VOTE on this issue even though you might on others. There are other issues on your ballot that might not be on mine in a different district. Ballots are individualized for each district depending upon the needs of those people (electorate). Some things on the ballot are the same for all Kansans. One would be the choice of president. The governor, state attorney general, state treasurer and many more are open for voting on when the terms of the individual offices are up or someone has left office.
Other voter items are on local school board members, mayors, city councilmen, and even sometimes whether to put in a stop light at a specific location. Don't keep yourself from making local decisions that make a difference in your every day world, because you wish to stay out of the state and federal decision making.

Does your vote count? Every vote counts. I've had to count them. We strung them on a huge curved needle with a heavy string attached to it and a button on the other. As each ballot was counted and looked at by six people, the ballot was strung on the string to keep from accidently counting a ballot twice. The people counting votes are from several parties, no party is left alone with ballots. Ballots are never left with only one person in attendance.

CAUTION: No one is allowed within a certain distance of a polling area to influence you to vote a certain specific way. This is illegal in most states. Report it.

A weird little question: Do you know how long/big the constitution of the United States really is? It will fit in your shirt pocket with room for an ipod and takes a half hour to an hour to read.

I hope this little bit of information helps dispel the biggest fear of the season--our electoral process. If you think this info doesn't fit with a writerly life, think again. What the government does sways the mood of the people. As the mood of the people goes, so goes their money. As the money of the people go, we writers want them to buy what we sell. What romance writers sell is hope. If the people prosper, they buy retail. If the people do not prosper, they go to the library. We need the people to prosper, vote accordingly.


Penny Rader said...

Great post, Nina. I opted to have my ballot mailed to me. (First time I ever tried it.) It came in the mail the other day. Now I just have to figure out who to vote for.

Unknown said...

I've already voted! Whoo Hoo! (mailed in my ballot on Monday)

Becky A said...

Yesterday I went on line and pulled up a voter's guide for my address. I was able to see all the questions I would be voting on and read the answers those running gave on many questions. It was very informative but took a fair bit of time. If you live in the Wichita area, you go to www.kansas.com. This is the Wichita Eagle's site. It may cover voting for the whole state but I can't swear to it. :)
You put in a search request for voters guide and then click on the heading of: 2010 Voter Guide. It will then ask for your address. You can even click on those you like and print to save your choices. Or, if you are paranoid like me, just write them down. I still had a few questions but can now search for specific answers instead of feeling lost in all the media hype. Voting can be scary, but it is also an honor, privilage and a duty. Great post, Miss Nina.