Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Right to Vote

by Pa Rock
Determined Voter

I always vote.  I consider it a duty of citizenship, but it is, at the very least, a right.

When I lived in Arizona, a state not known for its progressive values, I registered to vote at the DMV where I also elected to receive mail-in ballots for every election.  The ballots came in the mail several weeks early.   I marked them and then put back in the free-mailer envelopes and sent them in.  For those who did not trust the mailman, they could also take their ballots to their local polling places on election day and turn them in there.

When I moved to Missouri the process was much more complicated and cumbersome.  I first had to go to the DMV and get clearance there - along with new car tags - and then go to the courthouse and register to vote.  Missouri has no mail-in ballot option, so I was assigned a polling place - a fundamentalist church on the far side of town.  Pa Rock was not pleased about the venue or the distance - but yet I manage to show up and cast my ballot in every election.

County governments across much of the nation set up polling places in buildings that have adequate space and plenty of parking.  Schools are commonly used for this purpose, as are government buildings, libraries, and yes, even churches.  Going into a church to cast a ballot is not seen as a collusion of church and state - although it clearly is.

I have often muttered that the little old ladies who crowd in around me on election day would not be nearly so chirpy if they had to walk into a mosque to vote.  Last week, Palm Beach County, Florida, proved me right.

That county government had polling stations set up in a variety of locations including many of a religious nature.  Among other venues, the county had plans for voters to cast ballots in 80 Christian churches, five synagogues or Jewish religious centers, and one mosque.    Then, of course the phones started ringing and all hell broke loose.  Local patriots were up-in-arms over the idea that a godless mosque would be used for something as American as voting - and violence was even threatened.  Ignorance eventually won the day, and the county decided not to use the mosque as a polling station.

Jesus was undoubtedly pleased - and Jesus is, after all, what democracy is all about.

If we must vote  in houses of worship, all houses of worship should be allowed into the process - even the ones that feel alien to us.  Other options, like voting from home, should also be available.  That way, if I do not want to vote in a fundamentalist church, I can mark the ballot in my living room instead.

Voting is a right.  Let people exercise that right, America!   Support policies like universal registration, mail-in ballots, early voting, and weekend elections.  If we truly are a democracy, then everyone should be able and welcome to participate in the process.  Let people vote!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

Missouri law provides for absentee voting, which is essentially a mail in ballot. The voter must give one of the following reasons for requesting the absentee ballot:
1) Absence on Election Day from the jurisdiction of the election authority in which such voter is registered to vote;
2) Incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability, including a person who is primarily responsible for the physical care of a person who is incapacitated or confined due to illness or disability;
3) Religious belief or practice;
4) Employment as an election authority, as a member of an election authority, or by an election authority at a location other than such voter's polling place;
5) Incarceration, provided all qualifications for voting are retained.
6) Certified participation in the address confidentiality program established under sections 589.660 to 589.681 because of safety concerns.

However, if you just wanted to tear down Main Street with total disregard for the speed limit you may exercise your Missouri Constitutional right so to do. Missouri's Constitution, Article VIII Section 4. "Voters shall be privileged from arrest while going to, attending and returning from elections, except in cases of treason, felony or breach of the peace."

The statute regarding polling places is Mo.Rev.Stat. Section 115.117.1. First pick has to go to a public building and then a tax exempt building. Aren't the Heart of the Ozarks Fairgrounds public property?