Important note: This blog post represents my views alone. It does not represent my employer or any organization I work with.
In the past I have written extended commentary (often with endorsements) for major elections. I must admit that I have lost much of my drive to do so in recent days, partly because of how wretchedly flawed our system seems, but also because voting in this present moment feels too much like complicity with the evil of the system.
But I also am concerned that not voting could send the wrong message to the powers that be, that I am apathetic and that I don’t care what the corporate powers do to us. Yet, I am not willing to be a cog in the machine. Despite my fears about a possible Romney presidency, I can’t get past the lies and betrays of President Obama. Gitmo still holds prisoners without having stood trial. The US is bombing even more nations (and the peoples of those nations) than was happening 4 years ago. And Bradley Manning is still in prison.
If I lived in any other state, I could vote for a third party candidate like Jill Stein (either on the ballot or through a write-in vote). I of course might be tempted to vote for the “lesser of two evils” if I lived in a swing state, but at least I would have the choice to make. In Oklahoma, we get no choice. We get two choices – D and R. No write-ins allowed either.
Based on this scenario, I feel it is imperative to use my ballot for some little bit of good. I had contemplated various symbolic actions. Two choices that I considered were: (1) refusing to leave the polling place until they let me cast a vote for a third party — and hence getting arrested, or (2) burning my ballot — also likely getting arrested, since removing a ballot from a polling place (even if to take it outside for burning) is a crime. But I have no romantic fantasies about jail. I respect those who go to jail for the sake of conscience, but I have too much work to do (and a son to take to school on Wednesday morning) to take this kind of step. A third choice would be to write in a name (likely resulting in a spoiled ballot), but I am concerned that my ballot won’t even go in the box if the machine kicks it out.
So instead, I will do something different. I’m sharing my plan because others will join me in doing the same thing…
1. On arriving at the polling place, I will state my name and address but refuse to show ID. By law, the election workers are not allowed to let me vote on a regular ballot but instead must give me a provisional ballot to vote on. If they refuse to do so, I will show them this page from the State Election board website.
2. After getting my provisional ballot (which includes a required affidavit), I will give my identifying information (so my vote will be counted), but also explain that I am doing this to force them to give me a chance to vote for the candidate of MY choice.
3. After that, I will mark my provisional ballot, writing in the name of Jill Stein (the Green Party‘s presidential candidate). I will then put my ballot in the provisional ballot envelope and then submit it to the election workers.
4. The County election board will then have to examine my provisional ballot affidavit. I’m sure they won’t count me ballot for President, but they will be forced to consider the issue personally.
I know more than a few of my friends will think this is wrong, either because I am “wasting” my vote or because it is our duty as peace-loving Americans to vote for Obama. But I think a wasted vote is a vote for someone I don’t believe in. And as for it throwing the election… let’s get real. Romney will likely get 60%+ of the vote in Oklahoma anyway.
As for my friends who say we shouldn’t vote at all… I lean this way sometimes. I still think though that if one is in the position of privilege to get to vote, then one should use that privilege to help those who have been disenfranchised.
Most importantly, we all must remember that elections are only one small part of civic engagement and activism. The real work of making the world more peaceful happens on the other 1,460 days of the 4 year presidential cycle. How we live our lives has a much bigger impact than how we vote.