Election Day Comes Early

October 6, 2008

I know it’s still a month before the election, but today is election day for me.  I received my Texas absentee ballot late last week, and plan to scribble on it and then send it in later today.    Reading through the ballot, I noted a number of things I thought I should share with you.  First, my ballot is bilingual, in Spanish and English.  I read through some of the Spanish, and I noticed that it is not an exact translation of the English.  Dare I suggest that perhaps the electoral commission is a bit racist?  Oh what the heck: the Spanish version seems a bit “dumbed down.”    Considering the history of problems (Bush v. Gore – need I say more?) that all US citizens have had with correctly marking ballots, it seems that the Spanish version is better, but certainly not because Spanish speakers are less likely to understand their own language than English speakers.

Second, as a non-resident of the Great State of Texas (where the stars at night are big and bright…), I don’t have the right to vote for anything other than the president, the senate and the house of representatives.   Which is really a shame, because I was looking forward to casting an informed vote about who the next Texas Railroad Commissioner should be.   My knowledge of Texas railroads aside, it is a bit disenfranchising, especially as I remember my parents always having the right to vote on local positions when we lived in other states and they received their Texas absentee ballots (my parents always maintained Texas residency because of my dad’s work with the government).  I wonder whether all votes from abroad are disenfranchised on local positions, or only non-military votes from abroad (with the obvious partisan implications).

Third, there are three official tickets for President / Veep of the United States.  Barack Obama / Joe Biden, John McCain / Sarah Palin and Bob Barr / Wayne Allyn Root.   If you’re asking yourself who the third set is, than you’re probably not alone: they are the Libertarian candidates for President and Vice President.   Barr / Root have a very official looking campaign website where you can meet the candidates, make a donation and read about the issues, just in case you’re interested.

Notably, Ralph Nader is not on the ballot.  He is instead an “official” write-in candidate.  There is a list of official write-ins, including two women, Cynthia Ann McKinney and Rosa Clemente, who are the Green Party candidates.  The opening line of Clemente’s bio has got to be the best I’ve seen of any candidate:  “Rose Clement is a community organizer, journalist and Hip-Hop activist.”  I would so much rather have a hip-hop activist as vice president than a moose hunter, but I am probably not expressing the opinion of “main-streeters,” “Joe Six Pack” or “hockey moms” everywhere.

Interestingly, the Libertarian party has ballot access in 46 states, more than any other “third-party.”  The Greens only have access in 26 states.  Texas is obviously not one of them… though you might expect that there isn’t huge support for the Green Party in Texas anyway…

And one final observation from my ballot: the judges on the Texas State Supreme Court are elected.  Now here’s something I must have missed in my American Politics courses at Stanford: judges to state supreme courts are selected in one of five ways.  In 7 states, including Texas, there are partisan elections for judges, while in another 16 there are “non-partisan” elections (where the judge’s party affiliation is not written on the ballot).   In 5 states, judges are elected by the state legislature.  In only 7 states are judges appointed by the governor.  In the remaining 15, a selection process called the “Missouri Plan” is utilised, where a panel of lawyers submit a short list of candidates to the governor, who then appoints his / her choice.   This is the system in Maryland, the state where I used to vote, so it’s no wonder I was surprised to see judges on the ballot.

It turns out voting is a mini political science lesson and an expression of my fundamental right as a citizen of a democratic country all wrapped into one neat package.


One Response to “Election Day Comes Early”

  1. […] the election of a country that was not there own.  Which is striking really when you consider that I can’t even vote for anything other than national posts because I live […]

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