It’s 6th November all day today and, until the booths close at varying times across the United States of America, it is Election Day – all day today!
Today I am nervous, I think for the first time, about an election result. It is the first time I have been privileged to vote in an American presidential election and I have taken the responsibility seriously. I have studied the vagaries of the system though do not claim to be an expert.
The Electoral College is convoluted and, to my mind, outdated for the America of the 21st century. But I’m a newbie and what do I know. It just seems a fairer system if all our votes actually count towards the outcome. For example Texas has a population of, give or take, 25 million which allows 38 electoral votes compared to Ohio, which has a population of 11.5 million and 18 electoral votes – and yet Ohio has had 83 visits from the presidential candidates and Texas has had 14, 10 of which were purely for money grubbing. Texas being a safe Republican state is not seen as worth canvassing and that I think has a lot to do with voter apathy. If people don’t believe their vote matters it is harder to galvanise them to care enough to take the trouble to vote.
The result of this US presidential election is not a foregone conclusion.
A number of years ago I lived in a small, some might say despotic, West African nation where every election was indeed predetermined. A week prior to that presidential election a cocktail reception was held for some visiting bigwig at a local hostelry overlooking the harbour. An American gentleman joined me on the terrace. In the sultry equatorial evening we watched lights glinting from vessels either en route to deliver essential supplies to oilrigs, or crates and crates and crates of beer to the islands impoverished citizens. We quietly chatted about the country and the upcoming election. I was comforted to know that the gentleman, flown in especially to advise the incumbent president on electoral protocol, had assured his employer that winning by 97.5% of the vote was not a good idea and would surely raise a few eyebrows in the international community, both in country and out. The advisor’s suggested winning margin was in the lower 80% region. The incumbent took heed and won the election with a resounding 95%. Eyebrows were indeed once again raised.
I am not in any way intimating there will be such improprieties in the US presidential election but I do believe that if people make the effort to vote, they should feel their vote counts.
In many ways the actual physical process of voting is made easy, certainly here in Texas where early voting has been encouraged for the last two weeks. However the plethora of decisions to be made by the voting public is mind-boggling. On today’s ballot in Houston 73 decisions have to be made; from the all-important presidential to judicial to county commissioners to constables and then a referendum and various propositions. The system does not encourage thoughtful voting decisions and it is easy to see why many would choose to vote straight ticket Republican or Democrat.
Voting is a daunting prospect.
That is why I chuckled yesterday as I infused my daily dose of comic strip favourites. I would suggest anyone confused by the complexity of the ballots in front of them today to follow Brian Bassett, creator of Red & Rover, the adventures of a 10 year-old boy and his dog. Red is walking Rover and comments that if he were old enough to vote he would not know whom to choose. Rover responds, “If I could vote, I’d vote for the candidate who’s nicest to dogs.”