Homeless does not mean voteless

November 10, 2006

From Wednesday’s Boston Metro:

Jacqueline Johnson has lived at the Pine Street Inn off and on for 20 years. It hasn’t stopped her from having a voice on Election Day. “I vote because civil rights leaders worked hard for us to have the chance to vote, so I’m doing my part,” said Johnson, who registered with the Pine Street Inn address. “Voting is my duty.” Aimee Coolidge, the director of community and government relations at the Pine Street Inn, makes it her duty to help the homeless get heard through their vote.

A nice short interview follows. Coolidge adds that “[the homeless] can use [their shelter] as an address,” implying that this practice extends beyond Boston. Pine Street seems like a pretty stellar, example, though:

Have there been more seeking assistance for this election? Not at Pine Street, as we [promote voting] all the time. We are always trying to register them. We ask them when they come to us if they are registered. As we get closer to an election, we organize voter registration events. The hardest part is having a homeless person believe their voice does count. Sometimes they are just worried about where they are going to sleep tonight. But the results can affect them more than anyone.

Well put, Ms. Coolidge. Well put.

The disposable vote

November 7, 2006

There’s an interesting discussion thread going on at Pandagon at the moment. Commenters are debating the merits of totally partisan voting to oust republicans, the viability of voting one’s conscience, the issue of democrats who support torture, and what it means to be a third-party voter.

I’m mostly concerned with that last item, as someone who would love a third party to gain serious attention, if only to shake the dems out of their apparent eight year coma and stop sliding toward conservatism. One commenter shared this anecdote:

“A Union friend of mine is a total off the map left fielder/anarchist type and he knows the issues backwards and forewords- he voted for Nader in 2000. Look how much he screwed us all over? And he realized he was going to have to compromise and vote democratic in 2004 because the stakes were just too high.”

Impressive that one green party voter was able to “screw us all over.” I really wish I knew the study off the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read literature suggesting that in 2000 a good portion of green voters wouldn’t have voted at all if not for Nader. This would refute the common misconception that green voters would’ve voted for Gore if Nader hadn’t been on the ballot.

The question I would ask of this particular commenter would be where this Union friend (unclear what that’s supposed to mean–a labor activist?) actually cast his or her vote. If it was a non-swing state, even if you believe that Nader votes took away from Gore’s votes, this individual voter (indeed, all green voters in non-swing states) did absolutely nothing to hurt Gore’s chances or the democrats in general.

But then again, as someone who was still too young to vote in that election, I remain fiercely proud of my father, who voted for Nader in a swing state. Sick of the “vote-wasting” rants I was hearing at school (high school, meaning most kids were still only mouthpieces for their parents) I asked my dad about his vote. He told me that if he had wasted his vote, everyone who voted for someone other than Bush wasted his vote too.

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I’ll admit that in 2004 I voted in this same swing state for Kerry, even though I really didn’t want him to be president. I didn’t feel like the green party campaign that time around had enough momentum to come as close to the 5% mark as it had in 2000, and I voted against my conscience because I hoped to heal some of the damage Bush had done. And my state ultimately went to Bush. Do I think I wasted my vote? Absolutely not, and neither should anyone who voted for Nader in that state.

That same Pandagon commenter also offers this pearl of wisdom:

“The only statement you make when you vote 3rd party is that you are an idiot. When there are people working there [sic] ass off to improve our party and the state of the nation we need your support, we need unity.”

As I pointed out, there are a hell of a lot of people working their asses off to improve the state of the nation who are neither working from within the democratic party nor running for office. It only denigrates their noble work when we blame their supporters for the democratic party’s failure to earn votes. Furthermore, there are a hell of a lot of democratic candidates who aren’t doing anything to improve the party or the state of the nation. They’re too busy grooming each other for the presidency by veering into moderation or conservatism. I would argue that it is just as important to oust these democrats as it is to get rid of republicans. Both groups are damaging us and our country.

Oh, and just for the sake of enlightenment, in some states or districts where one party has had control for years, challengers often run against party lines simply to get their names on the ballot. In Idaho, for example, it’s not uncommon for a reform-minded republican to run as a democrat.

Blind partisan voting does no one any favors. If you vote for only democrats solely for the sake of democrats while ignoring your own values, you send a message to the democratic party that its platforms are sound. I don’t know how they could have gone for six years without hearing the wake up calls, but it’s clear we need to send them another.

Election day thoughts

November 7, 2006

I’m a little irritated with myself for forgetting to bring a bank statement with me this morning so that I could go straight to voting after work, but luckily the polling place is located just down the block from my apartment so it’s not actually that much of an inconvenience.

According to the Massachusetts Board of Elections, because I registered to vote by mail after 2003, I’ll have to bring proof of address with me tonight when I vote because it’s a federal election. What confuses me is that I didn’t have to bring this proof when I voted two months ago in the democratic primary. I was surprised, in fact, to find that I only had to say my name and address–I had to provide no proof of either.

Which is as it should be. I’m sure others have written more eloquently on the problems with requiring identification to vote–how expensive things like driver’s licenses are, the fact that a lot of people have perfectly valid government-issued identification that doesn’t have a current address–but I still have to stress how problematic these requirements are. They’re particularly problematic because they’re so inconsistent, from state to state and even from district to district. Check on your state requirements here.

I have to wonder why there’s no universal voter registration card. As in, why not provide notarized registration cards that can be presented at polling places? There would still have to be some kind of identity verification, of course, but it wouldn’t have to come in the form of proof of address. Date of birth, for example, or social security number, just to prevent card theft. The card itself would only have to include name and district, and possibly party affiliation.

To my knowledge, no homeless advocacy groups have spoken out on this issue, but the proof of address policy is also discriminatory. Everyone eligible to vote should be able to, regardless of current housing situation.

Voting democratic?

July 6, 2006

The next bit for On Point this morning was a piece on the supposed identity crisis of conservatives, apparently losing ground thanks to the current administration. A colorful illustration of the problem (well, I suppose for liberals it’s more of a boon than a problem; the problem for conservatives, shall we say) came from a caller who identified as “a southern male” who had voted republican on the federal level across the board for 24 years. Yet he stated in no uncertain terms that he would be voting for the democratic candidate in the next federal election.

To me, this is a pleasant surprise. If anything, I had thought our administration, with its heavy emphasis on religion (remember all that funding for “faith-based organizations” early in Bush’s first term?) and so-called “family values” was actually gaining ground. Look at the numbers who came out to vote conservative when gay marriage popped onto the scene, after all.

Yet it would seem that the administration’s handling of a variety of issues, from the defecit to the war in Iraq, is actually driving away some dyed-in-the-wool conservative voters. The aforementioned caller was particularly incensed about Bush’s war, citing the lack of a congressional mandate as one of his major points of contention. The man was admirably upset that the administration takes voters like him for granted; he said they expect him to have no other choice, to never even consider voting for a democratic candidate.

Guess it doesn’t pay to take southern males for granted.