I’ve Got the Voter Pamphlet Blues

Just-Sayin-webIt’s been on my kitchen table a few weeks. I haven’t been able to muster the fortitude to pick it up and try again. I’ve been here before. It never ends well.

I tried again. Same result: heartache, despair, confusion and more nicotine withdrawal related grumpiness. It’s the Voter Publicity Pamphlet I’m talking about. The only good thing that has come from my perusal of this important document is my remembering of a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest.”

I don’t find the pamphlet that the Arizona Secretary of State has published all that helpful. Sure, there’s some basic information like what’s necessary for identification, etc. But in terms of helping me comprehend the complexity of the propositions and ballot issues, I’m not feeling it.  I didn’t know there was a Prop 125 until I picked up Secretary Reagan’s pamphlet. Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m not a dufus either. I’ve got a few degrees (and the student debt to prove it), teach for a living, and a few people have identified me as not unintelligent. But for the life of me, I don’t have a clue as to what a ‘concurrent resolution’ has to do with the Arizona Constitution, Article 29. After looking the information over, I’ve discerned that this proposal wants to change the way in which correctional officers are paid. That’s probably not a bad idea. You want good people running jails. Pay them.

But if you drill down, it turns out that supporting Prop 125 not only helps corrections officers, but authorizes  a ‘compensation adjustment’ for elected officials. Why can’t the lawmakers just come out and say it: We need better pay? This is the kind of political obfuscation that undermines credibility in our elected leaders, many of whom are lawyers. Another quote, this time from the Bard: “First thing we do, kill all the lawyers.”

Calm down, my father was a lawyer, a damn good one. He represented a Nevada brothel, an Anglican order of nuns, plenty of businesses and individuals, and he knew the law. Every election season, a family friend would call him on the phone and ask him about all the propositions on the ballot. He’d spend a good amount of time with her discussing the issues. It always impressed me that she took the time to call and he took the time to help.

Where is that kind of help nowadays? In The publicity pamphlet? I don’t think so. I tell my students every year I’ve taught that when they turn eighteen they will own the country. Some of them look at me as if to say, is there an option to rent or lease? If adults have trouble understanding the critical issues of our time because those in power veil what’s at stake in inaccessible language, then how much more will the next generation be at risk?

We all bemoan the low turnout at elections in this country of ours which takes such pride in its democracy. We criticize those who don’t vote as apathetic at best and unpatriotic at worst. They are neither. They are busy, unengaged, and yes, in some cases, poorly informed. But the way in which we attempt to inform voters doesn’t encourage their participation. It dissuades it.

The same is true for the actual physicality of voting. I remember the general election two years ago. I and most of our community stood in line at the Baptist church on hwy. 92 for hours to make our voice heard. We have the inalienable right to vote, but the process of voting alienates many people, including, or perhaps, especially young people.

Our democracy is as strong as its weakest link. Until we make participatory democracy more engaging and accessible, it will remain vulnerable and subject to the strength of those who know too well how to manipulate it. [Originally published in the October 4th, 2018, Bisbee Observer]