Election Day Follow Up: Our Democracy Is Only As Good As Our Data Entry

You may remember I had some trouble at the polls on election day. This week, I found out why I was missing from the rolls. I finally got my registration confirmation card in the mail, 3 weeks after election day, but the tardiness was not the only problem. My address was listed incorrectly on the card: 480 West XXth Street, instead of 460 West XXth Street. How it even got to me in the mail is a bit puzzling, but I realized that the “6” I wrote on the card was either mistaken for an “8” or just mistyped into the voter registration database.

Believe it or not, the difference between 480 and 460 may have caused the poll workers to not be able to find me on the rolls, since one polling place is sliced into about a dozen smaller areas by address. But that’s assuming my name wound up on someone’s rolls by election day and that the delay was just in mailing the cards out.

Either way, it’s still pretty crappy that my voter registration confirmation was sent to me 3 weeks after election day with the incorrect address. God help our democracy.

I (Think I) Voted. I Hope it Counted.

Several weeks ago, I completed the form to change my voter registration to my new address. I submitted it to campaign volunteers a few days before the registration deadline. Sure, I didn’t have to bother, but I figured it would be best to play by the rules and vote in my actual precinct.

Today, I showed up at the polls, and sure enough, my name wasn’t on the list of registered voters. Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy about this. Fortunately, I was able to vote “by affidavit,” meaning I filled out a paper ballot and signed a statement attesting to my residence in the precinct. As I handed it in, I asked the poll worker, “Is my vote going to count?” She enthusiastically reassured me that yes it would. That made me feel a little better, but I still walked out of the polling place feeling a little cheated.

Inexcusable.

Nevertheless, this incident, combined with my experiencing canvassing in Pennsylvania this past weekend, really showed to me the importance of grassroots voter awareness, registration, and education efforts. This election at the end of the day is only partly about the candidates on the ballots. It’s about the millions of volunteers who get out the vote and the millions upon millions who actually do vote.

Or at least the ones who vote and get their votes counted.

Sheesh. At least this election will be over very soon.

Yes, We Can (Ignore every other issue except abortion when it comes to voting)

Warning: controversy ahead!

I’ve written earlier on the dilemmas facing modern Catholics in America, and those dilemmas are all the more pressing in this election year. The NY Times has an excellent article on the Catholic vote, “Catholic Church Is Riven By Internal Debate,” and it cuts to the heart of the crisis of authority facing the Church in the US.

As I’ve said before, the middle ground is a tough place to be, especially when it comes to religion. When you take some things from the theological salad bar but leave some of them behind, part of you wonders why you’re even at the salad bar to begin with. The Church can’t show any cracks in its authority for fear that any compromise on its issues will lead to a slippery slope of moral relativism and eventual obsolescense.

Unfortunately, it’s not helping its cause when it tells Catholic voters to essentially Vote for McCain (and only for McCain and other anti-abortion public officials) Or Else. The article quotes one American bishop as saying:

Being ‘right’ on taxes, education, health care, immigration and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life. It is a tragic irony that ‘pro-choice’ candidates have come to support homicide — the gravest injustice a society can tolerate — in the name of ‘social justice.

Let’s rewind the clock and apply this logic to the year 2000. By this logic, even though George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and his Republican Pro-Life pals were wrong on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, Abu Ghraib, the economy, torture, politicizing the Justice Department, domestic spying, and every other pathetic failure of the public trust over the last eight years, this is all somehow OK because at the end of the day they put two conservative judges on the Supreme Court who might someday possibly consider overturning Roe V. Wade?

Everyone gets it. Abortion is bad. Nobody wants Planned Parenthood to have people lining up outside the clinic for quick ‘n’ easy pregnancy terminations. Nobody wants a culture that disrespects human dignity and human life.

But do you know what else disrespects human dignity and human life? Denying access to sex education that will ultimately prevent abortions. Torturing prisoners of war. Supporting economic policies that keep poor people in the ditch. Launching an unjustified war. Sitting on your laurels while poor black people drown in New Orleans. Stoking hatred and vitriol against people in same sex relationships. Blindly trusting the free market to regulate itself while millions of American fall into the economic abyss.

I’m Catholic, I do respect life, and I’m not voting for a candidate just because they carry the anti-abortion flag into the battlefield. I do respect Catholics and others who want to vote their conscious and vote Pro-Life, but I’m Catholic, I’m voting my conscious, and I’m voting for Obama.