Sunday, November 2, 2008

Apple #349: Voting

I love voting.

My state is one of several that allow for early absentee voting, and today I voted.

I figured that on Tuesday, my polling place would be super crowded, and I also thought I might like to volunteer in some way on that day. So I decided I'd vote early. I decided to go to the absentee polling place today, thinking that on a Sunday afternoon maybe there'd be fewer people than on a Saturday. I figured wrong.

The actual task of filling out the ballot, actually voting, took about four minutes. But it took me six hours and fifteen minutes of waiting in line to get there.

Yes, you read that right. 6 hours, 15 minutes.

The photo I had originally posted was of an enormous line that snaked back and forth in a giant public building. But the person who took that picture took down her site. :) So here's a picture of people in line waiting to vote in Tulsa, OK in 2008. This isn't even close to the packed-house madness in my community, but this is still a lot of people who want to vote.
(Photo from NewsOn6)

There were volunteers handing out free food -- pizza, apples, snacks, and water -- and they also set out chairs for us to sit on as we moved through the enormous line. But I was still very hungry by the time I got home, and my feet and my knees are really tired from all that standing on cement floors. I've eaten dinner now, but I haven't had enough of lying down with my feet up, so I'm going to go do that some more. Tomorrow, I'll tell you some tidbits about voting.

In the meantime, hooray for voting!

[time passes]

Okay, it's tomorrow. Here are some of the reasons I love voting.

For starters, it's quite rare.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit, which keeps track of countries all around the world in a way that very few other organizations do, has an index of democracies in the world.
  • Lots of countries say they're democracies, and everybody has slightly different definitions of what a democracy is. If you look up the word in several different dictionaries and encyclopedias, I'll bet that you don't see the same definition twice.
  • The Economic Intelligence Unit says that in order for a country to qualify as a Free Democracy, it has to meet five criteria:
  1. Holds free and fair competitive elections on a regular basis
  2. Upholds civil liberties to protect basic human rights
  3. Government is functional -- that is, it does what it says it's going to do
  4. The people are actively engaged and openly question their leaders
  5. Citizens freely participate in their government.
  • The EIU profiled 167 countries in the world and found that only 28 countries meet the criteria of Free Democracies.
  • Those 28 countries, by the way, account for only 13% of the world's entire population.
  • In some other countries that the EIU calls Flawed Democracies, people might get to vote, but maybe the voting is compromised in some way, or it doesn't amount to much in the end, or not very many people participate.
  • In another category, Authoritarian Regimes, citizens really don't get much say in their government at all. 55 of the 167 countries were judged to be in this category.
  • Put another way, 38% of the entire world has little or no say in their political system.

Freedom House's 2008 map of democracies in the world. Dark blue countries are those identified as free electoral democracies. Dark red are considered not free and not electoral democracies. Light shades of either indicate partially free democracies.
(Map sourced from Wikipedia)

Lots of people worked and fought for a long, long time for the right to vote.

Let's take just the history of the United States. I realize this leaves out several thousands of years of global history, but I can't cover the political history of the world here. I'm just trying to illustrate a concept.

The Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, basically said that Great Britain was not a Free Democracy, and so this group of people was going to establish its own Free Democracy.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it's a lot of white guys, but notice the crossed swords and flags on the wall. Even they had to fight for their rights.
(Image sourced from justmytruth)

In between then and now, there were literally wars -- the Revolutionary War, the Civil War -- when people fought and killed each other over their rights and the rights of others. In addition, there were also marches, protests, arguments, fights, riots, people getting thrown in prison, and all sorts of less violent battles in which people struggled for their rights and the rights of others.

So here's a timeline of the Constitutional Amendments related to voting rights. What I think about, more than the dates themselves, is the time in between the dates. I think about, in those intervening years, all the work that went on to achieve the next milestone, and how long it took to get there.
  • 1776 - The United States is established
  • 1869 - Men of all races are allowed to vote
  • 1919 - Women are allowed to vote
  • 1962 - Nobody can be kept from voting for not paying a poll tax
  • 1971 - All citizens over the age of 18 may vote
Those dates, by the way, are when the amendments were proposed. In some cases, it took individual states a long time to get around to ratifying a particular amendment. North Carolina, for example, didn't ratify the amendment getting rid of the poll tax until 1989.

 Lots of states took a long time to ratify the women's right to vote. Mississippi didn't ratify the amendment until 1984 -- a full 65 years after it was proposed.

To most of us, this might seem like a pretty commonplace act.  But actually, this is the culmination of centuries of struggle.
(Photo from the grio)

It's all you.

Sure, when politicians are campaigning, people try to persuade you to think this way or that way. They tell you things to try to get you to agree with them, or to disagree with the opposition. They show you pictures, they play stirring music, they might call somebody else names, or they might call you names -- all to try to get you to think what they think. But in the end, when you get your ballot and you go to mark your vote, there's nobody else in there with you. It's just you and the ballot and the pen.

(Photo from Pick's Picks of the Day)

No matter what anybody else tells you beforehand, you get to say what you think. Not the guy standing next to you, not your mom or your dad, not your spouse or your child, not your so-called friend who pushes you around, and not the people on TV either. Just you.

You get to walk up to the table, ask for your ballot, and fill it out. It doesn't cost you any money, and you get to say what you think.

It matters.

Living in a free democracy as we do, what you say matters. People will listen. Yes, a majority vote is required, but your vote will be counted. It will add up, and your choice will be heard, and things will happen as a result.

After the election and the results are in, somebody will start a new job. Somebody else will pack up his or her desk and go do something else. Your community might start picking up trash better than it used to because everybody decided that ought to be done in a different way. Your city might change the way it runs its schools because the majority of your city agreed that it should. The way your state manages its water resources might change because you agreed that it should. The way our country operates in any given way might change because we voted so.

In how many other aspects of your life do people in power ask you what you think, you tell them, and things change because of what you said? That's what voting is.

Laza Kekic, The Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index, 2007
US Constitution Online, Ratification of Constitutional Amendments
US, The Declaration of Independence
Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 42 Explore, The Topic: Revolutionary War


  1. Holy Crap. Apple Lady, I'm so sorry to hear you had to wait that long! In our county (Sarasota, FL) they had 6 early voting locations so it wasn't too bad. The county north of us (Manatee, FL) had only one, so people had to wait that long too!!

    I'm excited about election day! I'm going to the polls at 6:00am to volunteer, as a poll watcher. Hey people, don't try to disenfranchise anyone on my watch! :)

  2. What a great post! Regardless of how one feels about the outcome of the election, your reminder of our privilege and obligation is right on!

  3. Fan-TAS-tic Apple, Granny Smith! How chilling (and blessing-counting-reminding) to realize that only 13 percent of the world lives in Free Democracies. You have a teriffic site here that just keeps getting better.

    Btw, check out my latest post (11/8/08) for two topics I'd love to see tackled effectively, because nothing I've read on the subjects has effected understanding on my part. Http://

    PS I no longer have an accurate email address for you. I get bounce backs with appendages that read, "Apple Lady Invokes The Restraining Order." Whatever that means.

  4. Apple Lady, I really enjoyed the second part of your post. I had to take a few days off after Nov. 4th before I could bring myself to read it. But I did, and I am glad. It is good to know that we live in a place where we have the right to vote, and I hope everyone appreciates it!

  5. Kudos to you for writing such a well-written, thoughtful, informative, and refreshingly non-controversial post. I stumbled on your site while searching for how to grow garbanzo beans, hee hee. :) So I went to the front to see if you were still posting, and I found this. Magnificent!

    If ever I need to defend the right to vote, I'm bookmarking this page and sending people here. I don't know how old or young you are, whether you're male or female, I don't even know if I'd like you as a person, lol, but none of that matters because you wrote from your heart and more importantly you wrote THE TRUTH. Such an uncommon commodity these days, much like common sense, but that's a story for another time.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I quite enjoyed reading them. :)

  6. Thanks, everybody, for all your kind responses. I don't have many posts about politics because it tends to be such a fractious topic, and said fractiousness is antithetical to the purpose of this here Daily Apple. With this entry, I only wanted to express my enthusiasm for voting and in doing so, I definitely wanted to avoid any favoritism toward any particular party or individual. I'm glad to know that several of you thought I managed that.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm in return, and let's all keep voting!


If you're a spammer, there's no point posting a comment. It will automatically get filtered out or deleted. Comments from real people, however, are always very welcome!