Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Had My Say (At The Polls) Yesterday

The old saying proclaims that we get the kind of government we deserve. We must not deserve very good government, since so few of us care about it, on the basic, local level. There were no state-wide issues to decide yesterday; no state legislators to vote for or against; just local and regional decisions. School board, referenda, county board, judge. Government at the basic level.

At 11 o’clock, I was the 74th voter at the Town of Madison town hall. Five of my neighbors were there, doing their job, checking to make sure I was who I said I was, keeping track of the votes, helping people who had questions about the ballot, helping them find out which ward they live in – all that basic stuff that makes democracy work at the fundamental level.

The folks who’d signed on for the low-paying and essentially thankless job of running the polling place know who I am, and greeted me by name when I walked in. But they made me say my name and address out loud. Doing it by the book, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After I made my choices and stuck the ballot into the electronic thingy and heard the “ding”, I thanked them for their service and told them I’d go out and try and drum up some business for them.

One of the many great things about elections here in America is the secret ballot. You don’t have to tell anybody who you voted for. And nobody has the right to tell you who to vote for, or how to vote on any issue. As Americans, we make our own laws and rules, from my sparsely-populated township ward’s ordinances, all the way up to the highest laws in our land.

We make the laws by voting for the people who will represent us, and if they don’t represent us the way we want, we vote against them. If we don’t like the laws or rules they make, we break them. They didn’t come down from God on smoking tablets; we made them. There’s usually a consequence when we get caught breaking the rules, but if enough people break the rules, we usually decide that maybe it’s the rule that’s bad, not the people who are breaking it.

If only that last sentence were truer in actuality than in theory. We have some pretty stupid laws, and some pretty ineffective representatives.

That’s why I more often than not vote against somebody than for somebody. There were a lot of folks we sent up there to the big top to fix the horrible problems with education funding in our state. They didn’t do it. And they blame everyone else. But they’re the only ones who can do it.

When I see what’s going on with public education in this state, and particularly in the Madison school district, I know I’m going to be doing a lot of “voting against” when those folks up there at the top of State Street are up for “renewal”.

Even if my friends and neighbors disagree with me and send the current lot back, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I had my say.

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