It’s Election Day and I have some thoughts.
I write about politics for a living, and every two years we do this voting thing. Used to be fairly simple. People voted early, by mail, or on Election Day and that night, or at the latest the next day, we’d know who won and who didn’t.
Voting is the best. What an incredible feeling to get that ballot and look at it, as if for the first time, taking the black felt pen and carefully filling in the little oval next to my selected candidates.
And then to feed my ballot into the machine, seeing that it’s counted. The “I voted” sticker goes on my tie (I dress well on Election Day), a reminder that I’d participated in true freedom.
It’s the feel-good part of America, the idea that little ol’ me has a say in picking governor of the great state of Florida. Or who sits on the Citrus County Mosquito Control Board.
Voting is local. Inverness folks have city elections. Homosassa voters choose board members of their water district.
Voting is not politics. It is separate from the political process. Candidates, their supporters, consultants, political signs, ads, robo calls, mail pieces, debates, fundraising, endorsements — that’s politics.
The chefs have finished in the kitchen and now we select the meal.
Voting stands on its own. It is sacred.
The voting turnout today should be OK for a midterm. Probably in the 60% range. That ain’t bad, right?
I’m always amazed, though, by voters who pick and choose their elections. They’re the people who won’t play the Lotto when the prize is $10 million but will play when it’s $100 million. Simply illogical.
And the ballot has become more complicated. It’s printed both in English and Spanish, making the ballot seem longer than it really is. The local nonpartisan races — Mosquito Control Board, School Board, Inverness City Council and Mayor, and Homosassa water district — are squeezed in between the district court of appeal judges and the amendments, so it’s easy to miss them (double check!).
As much as I love voting, I’m not naïve to the ways of the world. People with devious and dangerous intentions are scaring their neighbors into thinking voting isn’t safe. Or, that their votes are being stolen, buried in the basement somewhere.
(Do these people also believe in ghosts and witchcraft? And how can folks who mindlessly send credit card info to Amazon every other week possibly conclude their vote is at risk?)
OK, no ranting! Not on Election Day. Instead, I have my own voting story.
It was an obscure election. Maybe a presidential preference primary, something like that. I arrived at my county fairgrounds precinct and went to get the ballot.
The elections clerk looked at my driver’s license, then at her voter book (before the internet, back in the horse and buggy days), looked at me and said I was ineligible to vote because I had been removed from the rolls.
She said I had been removed due to inactivity, which I knew was wrong because, as mentioned, I never miss a voting opportunity.
The clerk called the elections office and I could hear her speaking to someone there. She explained the situation and handed the phone to me. On the line was none other than Maureen “Mo” Baird, then a top assistant to Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill.
I listened as Mo explained that because I hadn’t voted in two years, my name was removed from the rolls. I could cast a provisional ballot if I wanted to.
“Mo,” I said to her. “It’s Mike Wright.”
Brief silence, followed by: “Oh.”
She asked me to hand the phone back to the elections clerk. I was provided a ballot, issued an apology (totally unnecessary) and I did my duty. Turns out a different Michael Wright was the voting slacker. All of us have had a good laugh about that over the years.
It’s Election Day. Regardless of outcome, the beauty is in the vote.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Now it’s our turn.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.