Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Voting - 8 February, 2016
I promise this is not going to be a political screed, imploring you to vote one way or the other. I refuse to get sucked into that
trap. Voting is a highly personal issue, based on the things that matter most to each of us as individuals and there is no way
that cannot get ugly.
No, my goal today is to point out the difficulty in voting while cruising. There is, of course, the difficulty of getting a ballot in the
mail, choosing the various options and then getting it back into the mail in time for it to actually make a difference. In fact,
there is some question as to whether mailed-in ballots actually do make a difference.
Cruiser lore says that mailed-in ballots don't actually get counted unless there is a sufficient number of ballots to make a
difference. In other words, if Candidate A won a particular election by 3,000 votes and there are only 2,500 mailed ballots,
what would be the point of opening and counting them? For the record, I think they do get opened and counted, if for no
other reason than because it is the law to do so.
To me, however, the bigger problem is whether or not to vote at all? This is not a frivolous, "voting is too hard, so why bother"
type of position. It is based on something a lot deeper - at least in my opinion. Do I have the right to cast a vote in an election
that doesn't affect me?
Suzanne and I officially "live" in Green Cove Springs, Florida. There is a huge mail forwarding company there called "Saint
Brendan's Isle." How huge? A few years ago, when they outgrew their old facility and moved to a new one, they were able to
convince the US Postal Service to deliver mail to the new location, even though it was addressed to the old location. Since the
bulk of the mail in that post office is going to Saint Brendan's Isle, it made sense and it meant that you didn't have thousands
of cruisers (and other travelers) changing their address all of a sudden.
So, we live in Green Cove Springs, in Clay County, Florida. Because one of the marks of "where you live" is where you are
registered to vote, we are registered to vote there.
However, we have only been to Green Cove Springs five times. We have never spent more than three or four hours there.
We are not even really sure where Green Cove Springs end and the rest of Florida begins.
So, now we get a ballot in the mail, telling us that we can vote on these people and these issues affecting the people of Green
Cove Springs and Clay County. Should we?
Voting for President is easy. It would be next to impossible for a coastal cruiser in America to not know the current candidates
and the issues in a presidential election. Even if they tried to avoid it. In addition, the election of a President affects every
American, even ex-patriates living in foreign lands. Things like tax policy and foreign relations can be very important to people
outside the US.
Voting for state elected offices can be trickier. Federal elected positions, like Senator and Representative to Congress, affect,
once again, ex-pats from the state. A person registered to vote in Florida can be affected by the actions of the two Florida
Senators, even if the person is currently in Maine. On the other hand, the people elected from the state of Florida are
supposed to representing the interests of the people IN Florida. If the only tie to Florida is that you have a business
relationship with a mail forwarding service there, do you have the right to say what issues "affect" Florida?
Finally, when we are talking about voting in local elections for local issues, the connection disappears almost completely.
Frankly, the only thing that I care about in Green Cove Springs is whether or not Saint Brendan's Isle continues to be there. If
there are any other issues, I don't know about them, no one has been able to contact me to persuade me to vote on them,
one way or the other, and I would not be affected by the results.
Is it fair for me to cast a vote in an election in which I have no stake? Not is it fair for me, but is it fair to the rest of the people
who do have a stake? Suppose, in an extreme example, that there is a certain issue up on the block that could go either way.
It is currently separated by one vote. If the election stands, then the issue is decided one way. But Suzanne and I send in our
ballots and, since we didn't know anything about the issue, we decide to vote the other way. Now, our two votes change the
outcome of the election and an issue that rightly should have been settled one way gets settled the other way.
I realize that this is a very extreme example - and one that we could mitigate simply by each of us voting in opposite directions.
My "FOR" vote would cancel her "AGAINST" vote and the universe would be back in balance. But, if we are simply going to
vote in collusion to negate each other, what is the point of voting?
Of course, in most cases, this is not an issue. Most small town elections do not even have two candidates. "Everyone knows"
that Jimmy is the guy who is going to win, so why waste money running against him? In fact, in a lot of elections over the
years, I have put Suzanne's name in as a "write-in candidate," simply because there is no one else running against the
incumbent. But, at least I knew that in those elections.
Voting is a right. No, more than that, voting is a responsibility. It is the way we have agreed, all of us, to govern ourselves in
America. So, I take that responsibility very seriously.
But I don't want to screw up someone else's election. So, real voters of Green Cove Springs, Florida, rest easy. I won't be
voting for mayor this year. Or city manager. Or whoever is going to be in charge. It's all on you!