It’s Election Time Again, Charlie Brown

Posted October 21, 2008 in Government by

Well, it’s that time of the year.  Elections are upon us, and not just any elections, but the presidential election.  I can’t help but wonder as November 4th looms closer what this year is going to bring.  I also can’t help but wonder if I’m going to have to wait to find out who won…again.  Thanks to the last two presidential elections, many people are aware of aspects of the voting process that heretofore went largely unnoticed.  The Electoral College, hanging chads, butterfly ballots and other such words are still part of the American consciousness several years later.  Many states have moved to make improvements in their voting processes, but how much has really changed for the better?

The voting process is not standardized across the country.  Instead, it is up to the states to dictate the rules and procedures by which its citizens cast their ballots.  That means that requirements can vary greatly from state to state.  Some states require voters to present proof of identity, while others do not.  A few states such as Iowa allow voters to register and vote on Election Day, while others have a deadline to register well in advance of Election Day.  Some use paper ballots, while others use touch screens.  And, in Virginia, some voters must wear trash bags.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Trash bags.  Here’s why, Virginia does not allow people to try and sway others politically within 40 feet of a polling place.  They have recently interpreted this as meaning that not only can you not try to actively sway voters, but you also can not passively express your own opinion.  So, voters who are wearing political t-shirts or buttons will be asked to cover them up or remove them.  Guys might be asked to turn a t-shirt inside out.  For those who need assistance complying with the rule, registrars will be passing out a variety of cover ups that range from choir robes to ponchos to trash bags with holes cut out for arms and head.

There are an amazing amount of rules and regulations surrounding elections.  Unfortunately, many people are ignorant of some of the things hidden in these rules that they should know.  For example, in many states the law requires companies to allow their employees to be late to work in the morning if they were voting and to pay them for the time that they weren’t there. 

So, here are some tips to help you navigate your way through the craziness of Election Day.

Know where you’re going to vote.  Double-check your voter’s information pamphlet and, if need be, check online for your polling place.

Know what you need to bring with you.  Find out in advance if you need identification, and if so, what type.  Usually, driver’s licenses are the preferred document but others, such as passports, are usually acceptable.

Find out if there are any special restrictions.  This includes things like whether or not you can wear political buttons or clothing to the polls.

Give yourself plenty of time.  The last thing you want to do is find yourself stuck in a line and either racing through your ballot or having to leave before you get the chance.

Before you blow off work the morning of the 4th, make sure you check with your company’s employee handbook.  See what the company policy is about this time off from work.

Double-check your ballot.  Regardless of how you vote, take the time to make sure that your ballot clearly reflects your choices.

When in doubt, vote for Snoopy.  We’ll get that beagle into office sooner or later!

In all seriousness, Election Day is an important day, and it is our right and our responsibility as citizens to make sure our voice is heard.  Take the time to vote on November 4th and wear that little flag sticker they give you with pride.

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