COLUMN: Fail Mail

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

<em>“You’re a godsend! A savior!”</em>

<em>“No, I’m just the Postman.”</em>

—from the film, “The Postman”

If the history of the world teaches us anything, it is when living things do not want to do something that is not required to live, they will not do those things. Humans are compelled to eat food, drink water, breathe air, seek shelter and forfeit their lives to Facebook. Anything else that is not compulsory is done for entertainment value, by authoritarian edict or to get their significant other to stop nagging them…which is pretty much the same thing as capitulating to authoritarian edict.

Americans can be more steadfast than others on the subject of dissent. The genesis of this nation was built on the foundation of resistance to authority. Americans have a Bill of Rights that many of us believe entitles us to refuse to do a multitude of things. It is our birthright, our lineage and connects us to our venerated Founding Fathers, whom we apotheosize by making that term a proper noun….like God.

Few things are more sacred, or elicit passionate debates about America and our history more than voting. Or, more to the point, the lack of passion for voting. Some of us—and I am one of these people—never miss a vote. Too many of us have no desire to vote. Some people, whom I do not understand, never register to vote.

Although I do not understand Americans who do not participate in elections, that does not mean to suggest that I do not support their decision. Sometimes, exercising your voice is done by not taking part in the system. Not voting is a form of dissent; and dissent is a thoroughly American way to show displeasure with the governments—federal, state, county and municipal—that rule over us.

Those who believe we should force every American to vote are dangerously un-American in their thinking. It is the flip side of the flag burning argument. Whenever someone burns an American flag on our soil, and nothing happens to them, they show us all why this is the greatest country on Earth. It is a self-defeating form of protest. Nothing to see here. Go home.

When anyone argues that we should force people to vote, they are contemplating stripping a citizen’s right to protest by absence. They are proposing governmental aggression to prompt the apathetic and ignorant to participate in a system they are unskilled to navigate. In short, forcing people to vote only produces more unknowledgable and disgruntled voters. That creates more candidates for office whose campaign stratagem would concentrate on the lowest common denominators in a less sagacious electorate.

So, if forcing people to vote is equal to totalitarianism—and it is—what do we do about the problem…if there is one…about Americans unenthused about voting? The unfortunately myopic answer to this exaggerated dilemma has been to make voting easier and more accessible.

The main answers have been voting by mail and Internet voting. Both are profoundly stupid ideas.

If North Korea can hack into George Clooney’s emails to find out what he really thinks of Brad Pitt, I am fairly certain they can create chaos with our elections. And how long would it take DraftKings to create a fantasy game that steals money from suckers who vote online? Cyber voting has the same practical plausibility as hydrogen cars, and is more combustible. Pass.

Voting by mail, somehow, has survived its many obvious deficiencies. Public officials across America–and most certainly in Utah–have extolled the embellished virtues of voting by mail. It is cheaper than polling locations. Voters can take the time to comprehend a mail-in ballot. It is convenient for voters. Oh! How important it is for us to make the lethargic take an active role in a system that is better when only the informed and educated partake! Let’s finish off this joint in your mom’s basement and put our ballots in the mailbox!

Dumb. Flat out embarrassingly dumb.

Voting by mail does not create more informed voters. It can create more fraud. How many of these ballots will be discarded by those who just do not want to vote? How many of the apathetic will give their ballots to a relative or a neighbor who does care? Will election officers check every single signature from a ballot that was sitting in a tote for two weeks to ensure they are legitimate? How will they know?

More importantly, those who vote by mail are asked to enter their ballots at least one week before Election Day. Like the smug act of “early voting,” this takes away the option to change your mind if some salient facts should be discovered in the waning hours of a campaign.

If Fred Smith is running for Dog Catcher, you might decide to vote for Fred a week before Election Day. Then, on that Monday, a story breaks that Fred likes to smoke crack cocaine with prostitutes. What? You think these things only happen in Washington, DC? Or Toronto? It can happen here!

So, Fred wins the election and you have to go your whole life with the shame of knowing you voted for a man who might be using taxpayers’ money on hookers and blow. Are those the kind of values we expect from a man who is responsible for stopping the plague of stray dogs wandering our streets?

In Utah, the city of Logan is planning to have a single polling place open on Election Day. I plan to utilize this option in lieu of mailing in my ballot. And this year will be a very special election for me. My daughter is 18. This will be her first vote. She attended a forum with me hosted by KVNU radio with the candidates for Logan City council three weeks ago. She wants to take part in the system. That means the world to me. I want her to experience the awesome power that comes with being a voter.

Growing up, I was taught to believe that voting was a big deal. Many of my friends would go out to lunch after voting. You felt the electricity in the air all day. Walking into a voting booth and staring at the candidate’s names felt like power. I just do not get that feeling from putting a ballot in my mailbox before Halloween. That is a shallow act. Voting is the farthest thing from shallow any American should feel.

One last note on this issue which is entirely selfish. The less people who vote, the more power my vote wields. I will not willfully prevent people from voting, nor would I give them false information that would make it harder for them to vote. But, as a person who educates himself on the issues and the candidates, I find it insulting that my vote counts the same as a person who is essentially cattle-prodded into taking part in the system.

Simply stated, I am more intelligent and have an extensively larger political acumen than the vast majority of people mail-in voting is supposed to induce into being a part of the process. I took the time to go down to the county clerk’s office to register to vote. I am willing to go through the arduous act of walking into a polling place and show a poll worker my identification on a designated day so that I can have my vote counted. Is that really equal to one of the Labors of Hercules?

It is hard to fathom how increasing the electorate with people who are disinterested in how they are governed would increase the likelihood that good candidates would win elections; and how the campaigns would have a raised level of political debate by spurring these dilatory Americans into half-hearted participation. But that is the objective of mail-in voting.

For Americans, voting is an inalienable right. If many Americans refuse to do the elementary task of engaging in the process of voting, then the rest of us should leave them alone. I would prefer to be involved in a system where only the motivated few take an active role in elections. The alternative is a system rife with fraud and ignorance. If I wanted that kind of political process in my life, I would move back to Philadelphia.

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