Saturday, November 3, 2012

Confessions of an Early Voter

I have begun to make it a consistent practice of voting early. My primary motivation for doing so was that, over the last year or so, my polling place has become a comedy of errors. The staff has received so little training that their ineptitude is embarrassing, probably to the poll workers themselves as well as the impatient voters. Whether it involves checking the rolls or dealing with mechanical recalcitrance from the machine that is supposed to accept the completed ballot securely, my polling station is a paragon of disorder; and that was the case even before touch-screen voting machines were added to the mix. Since I am such a short walk from City Hall and the exercise is good for me, going over there to cast my vote early has always been pretty much a no-brainer.

However, this leads me to a somewhat ambivalent position over how much money I make candidates waste. Between the junk crammed into my modest mailbox and the density of robocalls, I realize that a fair amount of money is going up in smoke because those engines of distribution have no way of knowing that I have already voted. The one interesting thing is that almost none of that waste has involved the Presidential election, perhaps because mine is not one of those hypercritical “swing” states. Rather, the media assault is all about local issues, both ballot initiatives and the Supervisor for my district.

The funny thing is that I received at least a month’s worth of advertising from Supervisor candidates for District 5 before I learned that, due to redistricting, I was now in District 5. Supervisor elections alternate between odd and even numbered districts. I used to be in District 6, a point which I made on my site when I announced the San Francisco Arts Town Hall, which was held last August. This seemed necessary to declare my objectivity in reporting on an event at which my own vote was not at stake.

It was only after I had reported on the Town Hall that I discovered that my vote was at stake. Indeed, District 5 had the largest number of competing candidates who accepted the invitation to address members of the arts community on the question of support for the arts. The Town Hall turned out to be a rather gratuitous affair, the high point of which was the discovery that all of the District 7 candidates had not the foggiest notion of any arts activities in that District (some of which were rather impressive). Ironically, I singled out exactly one candidate from the whole evening of mindless speechifying who was capable of putting a reality check on the table; and she turned out to be a District 5 candidate. (She was also running against a candidate with a strong progressive reputation whose performance at the Town Hall was significantly less than clueless.) As a result, even where local issues were concerned, I had the necessary information to vote early.

Will any of this make a difference? I suspect not. Votes are not cast on the basis of issues. All forms of advertising are calculated to penetrate the limbic system so thoroughly as to block out any activity from the cerebral cortex. Most voters will probably put less thought into the choice they make than they will in buying an SUV (which they may not even need); and the “product” they receive through the polling place (regardless of the level of government) will likely be even more unreliable than any hulking gas-guzzler!

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