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A Labor of Love to Cast My Vote!

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Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


 People are early voting in record numbers all over America.  Here in my home state of Louisiana, election participation is up 25% over the presidential election just four years ago.  This means long lines on Election Day, and in most states, a long ballot to consider.  So I figured I would beat the crowd and absentee vote early.  It became a real labor of my civic responsibility.  The line wound around the local early voting location, with a wait of an hour and a half.

 Now I know that my vote for president is irrelevant.  Louisiana is a red state, which means the Romney ticket is a lead cinch to carry the state.  Forget California, the big Apple, and for the matter the whole south. It’s all about Ohio.   The Buckeye state has become the Epicenter of the Political World. We are all irrelevant unless you happen to live in Ashtabula, Coshocton or Macedonia.  States like mine get visited during a presidential election only if we qualify as a campaign ATM machine.  But still, I’m standing in line.

 And by the way, what’s all this red state-blue state thing?  I thought red was a designated color for communism?  You know.  Reds!  The Soviet Union!  And that Democratic “blue?”Â  The Bible says it’s a symbol of wealth and corruption.  Check out Proverbs.  Now the corruption I can understand.  But I thought it was the Republicans who are the rich guys!

 You see, it all comes down to the Electoral College, that archaic system put in place by our forefathers, when it took several weeks by horseback just to get to Washington. Each state was, with few exceptions, similar in size, strongly independent and demanding equal say in the ways of the nation’s capitol.  But here is how undemocratic the system has become.   When it comes time to pick a president, each state’s voice is determined by its congressional make up.  Every state has a guarantee of three electoral votes, including one for each of the two U.S. Senators.  And that throws the one man-one vote principal completely out of whack.

 As my friend, columnist Mark Shields points out: “This means that Wyoming, which in the most recent U.S. Census had 568,300 residents, has three electoral votes, and California, with 37,341,989 residents (which awards it 53 House members), has 55 electoral votes. As Bill Clinton might suggest, look at the arithmetic: Wyoming gets one electoral vote for every 189,493 residents, while it takes 678,945 Californians to get a single electoral vote. This is indefensible.”

 If you are following the numerous polls that are coming out daily, Mitt Romney seems to be slightly ahead nationally with the popular vote.  But the President seems to have the edge in four or five swing states, including Ohio.  This leads to the disturbing possibility that Romney will carry the day in acquiring a majority of voters across the nation, but Obama could be re-elected by garnering an Electoral College majority.  Déjà vu Bush-Gore?  This time around it would be the Republicans who would go absolutely bonkers, just like the Democrats did in 2000.  And both for good reason.

 So the line continues to move forward, and I check out some of my fellow about to be voters.  That older lady with face lift and the Skecher Shape-Ups?  Definitely a Romneyite.  How about the guy right in front of me wearing Birkenstocks and a t-shirt that says: “Save the defenseless spotted owl?”Â  Obama had him wrapped up from the beginning.

 On the wall, a little closer up, there is a stop sign that says: “No political activity within 300 yards of this polling location.“Â  I came up with this idea to place such a sign at all polling locations back when I was Secretary of State and Louisiana’s chief elections officer in 1982.  Oh, yes, I did add:  “Ordered by James H. Brown-Secretary of State.”Â  I thought it looked pretty good until, when it was time to run for re-election, my opponents hollered that I was the one who was doing the politicking.  Oh, well!

 I finally arrived at the voting booth, gave my name, showed my photo ID (no big deal), and then asked the lady polling commissioner if she had any doughnuts?  You see, back in the days when I was running for office, I always delivered boxes of doughnuts to each polling location.  The voting commissioners loved it, and I’m sure they would occasionally volunteer a suggestion as to whom to vote for when a quizzical voter wandered in.  And there were always extra doughnuts for voters who asked.  This time, (30 years later) the lady looked at me like I was nuts.

 I entered my voting booth along with the lady commissioner who inserted a little plastic card into my computerized machine.  She must have figured I was too stupid to stick it in myself.  I made my choices, and like many voters, guessed at voting for a few candidates and propositions where I hadn’t a clue of how, or for whom to vote.  But I finished.  I had done my civic duty.

 But I felt a bit let down.  Is that all there is?  Maybe it was the candidates.  Obama campaigned defending the past, and Romney flip-flopped all over the place.  Both parties seemed at constant political war.  Many almost insurmountable problems, facing our country were barely touched on by either party during the campaign. The President never did tell us what his agenda would be in the next four years.  Romney’s idea of a $5 trillion tax cut without reducing revenue just wasn’t believable. Immigration?  Hardly a word by either side so as to not raise a ruckus with Hispanic voters.  No talk of climate change, despite the weather chaos in the past few days.

 Whoever wins on election day, here’s hoping the winner will immediately set out a workable agenda of specific goals for America in the coming four years.  If not, here’s the encouraging news.  It’s only some 1465 days until the next election.


 Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?

 Robert Orben

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

 Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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