Since we now know the outcome of this year’s elections, it seems appropriate to keep writing about the topic just to add to your voter weariness. Hope you voted in this year’s election.
Of course, you may not have and, in the U.S. you can skip the messy process and just accept what others decided for you. There’s no real penalty for that.
But that’s not the case everywhere. NPR had an interesting story last week about the practice of compulsory voting in Brazil. Turns out, people get a receipt of sorts that shows they’ve voted in the most recent election. When people try to access government services like getting a passport or accessing federal loans, they must produce the receipt in order to make use of the service.
So, in Brazil, most everyone votes because they don’t want to be shut out of those services.
But there’s a little bit of a catch to it. Apparently, the ballots in Brazil come with an option for “none of the above.” If voters really don’t like either candidate running for an office, they can vote for none of the above.
Can you imagine how many people would have made that choice in this year’s U.S. presidential race?
Apparently, Brazilians aren’t big fans of the compulsory voting process. According to the report, more than 41 percent of the voters cast their ballots for none of the above. In other words they were simply going through the motions for the sake of getting that document that shows they participated.
There are, the report said, efforts to reform the system in Brazil, but it seems to me any elected politician in Brazil would like to be able to say he or she won the support of the people in a race in which everyone had their say. I can’t see much incentive for elected officials to change that process.
In the U.S., of course, we aren’t required to vote, much less even register to vote. We can thumb our nose at the entire process. For those who register to vote, though, people are watching. A pre-election mailer from the Republican party told recipients that your voting record – whether you voted or not, not who you voted for – is public record. The mailer suggested that Democrats were going to start publishing the voting records of voters as a way to shame them into voting.
Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that’s exactly what the Republicans were trying to do with their mailer, since it had my voting record on it and a copy of three or four other voters listed under my name.
I’m not sure, honestly, why that would intimidate anyone to begin with. While I wouldn’t necessarily want everyone to know who I voted for, I couldn’t care less if the whole world knew whether I voted or not.
Nevertheless, whether you voted or not, the next step in this fun process is to begin the process of governing. That’s honestly a lose-lose proposition for any winning candidate because of the bent in Washington and Raleigh toward obstructionism. And, when laws are passed, there are almost always an equal number of people who don’t get what they want as there are those that do.
And those who don’t get what they want will do everything short of shouting fire in a crowded movie theater to promote the injustice perpetrated upon them by those in power.
The amount of vitriol in this year’s election has been unprecedented, at least in my lifetime. And, that’s not just among the candidates. Even rank and file voters who have made up their mind have been exceedingly hostile toward the candidate they don’t support.
That’s going to make it even more difficult, I suspect, to move this country and state in one direction or another.
I told my friend David Williams at this week’s Rotary meeting that it may seem naive, but I long to see us return to the days of Jimmy Stewart when he portrayed Mr. Smith in the movie “Mr. Smith goes to Washington.”
Alas, that seems so highly unlikely.
But at least I had the choice of whether I voted or not.