By Don C. Reed
It is probably wiser — and certainly more convenient — to vote by mail.
But for Gloria and I, Voting Day is a ritual, eagerly awaited.
When I get home from work this coming Tuesday, she and I will drive the short few blocks (we used to walk, but her knees give too much pain now) and stand in line for a little while. If there are neighbors we know, we will chit-chat with them, but not about politics.
When the line winds into the polling place, we tell our name and address to the volunteer behind the table, and he or she will look us up on their big printout sheets.
They underline our names as having voted, and the next person hands us the stiff voting pages. It is a paper copy, for which I am glad. An electronic version can be hacked, but a paper trail can be checked.
Gloria and I have gone over the various measures and people on the ballot. On most we will agree; a few we will not.
Gloria likes to bring a copy of the voting information with her; I do not. She is the more practical (by far!) of the two of us, and does not want to risk forgetting a name or a measure; I feel if I cannot remember something on the ballot, that means I do not know it well enough to vote on it in an informed fashion, and will leave that part blank. But as age progresses, I may have to adopt Gloria’s method.
There is some nervous tension as we in our separate booths go through the ballots. There will be a list of names and a place to connect our choices with pencil. It is so… important. I am always a little afraid I will mess something up and my vote will not count.
But if I do make a mistake, I will just ask for another ballot.
Because the people in charge of voting want me to succeed. There will be nobody there to look mean and threatening: no one trying to intimidate me, no one trying to cheat me of my vote.
It is the way voting is meant to be.
When I finish I will go over the ballot once more, just to be sure I voted on all the individuals and measures I wanted, and then, reluctantly, I will take the finished sheets to the person by the machine, who will tell me how to insert it.
With a mechanical hum, the machine will suck in my votes, and tabulate them.
Whoever is first waits for the other, and then we go home.
There used to be a nice lady at the door who would give us a home-made cookie for doing our civic duty. Unfortunately, she passed away. She is missed.
Putting our “I VOTED” sticker on our shirts (with a little surge of pride) Gloria and I head home for pizza and the long night of vote results…
In 2016, the results (for us at least) were agony. By a handful of votes (three states!) we ended up with President Trump instead of President Clinton.
This year we hope to balance his power by at least winning the House of Representatives and maybe the Senate as well.
But in 2020, in addition to the chance to change Presidents, we may have the opportunity to advance stem cell research once more.
In 2004, Bob Klein led the battle for Proposition 71, the California Stem Cells for Research and Cures Act. Because it was an initiative, we gathered signatures, more than a million of them. We made it to the ballot, asking California to invest $3 billion into stem cell research — a down payment on cure.
Since then, after nearly three years tied up in court by opponents of the research, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has been going strong.
We have quite literally saved lives and eased suffering. (I say “we” in pride, the same way as being part of America, not that I have any official role in CIRM.) More than 40 children are running around happily, instead of waiting for an early death from Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID) disease.
Many more conditions have advanced closer to cure — that progress must be maintained — and in 2019, Bob Klein will poll California to see if there is sufficient support to renew CIRM’s funding.
If all goes well, he will say yes — to the greatest stem cell battle of all time.
But that is for another day; right now, protect your rights for Tuesday.
Do you know where your polling place is? If not, here is a reliable website to find out:
Do you have your ride planned, a way to get to the polls?
If not, here is something wonderful: a free ride to the voting polls.
They will help you — free, courtesy of a great group, WomenVote.
Not sure if your state requires a voter ID? Go here and click on your state, it will tell you instantly.
AND — if you live in a states that requires a Voter ID, and you don’t have one? For help, go to VOTERIDERS.
This volunteer group will help you get your Voter ID, including helping arrange a ride for you to the registration center (typically the Motor Vehicle Department), or even help with fees you must pay to vote, like if you have to pay to locate a birth certificate.
What if you have — or someone you love has — a disability? Do not let that interfere with your right to vote.
The American Association of People with a Disability (AAPD) is a valuable organization for any person with a disability. (Note: AAPD has no connection with my political opinions.) Their information also applies to people with no disability.
They will answer your questions, like: where will you vote, or what are the voting requirements in your state? Is it legal to bring someone in the voting booth with you, to help fill out the form? Probably — but they will help you find out for sure. Do you want to stay in your vehicle while you vote? The voting station will almost certainly accommodate you — but call first to be sure.
Here is their number, (toll-free) 844–338–8743. Tell them what state you are in, and they will help you. I have called that number, and they are nice helpful people.
Or email them at email@example.com.
Suggestion: print out this page, take it with you when you vote. That way, if you are at the polling place and the people running it will not let you vote for any reason, call the voting rights hotline at 866 OUR-VOTE. They have lawyers standing by, ready to help you — no charge, it’s free.
Tip: If you are turned away from voting, ask for a provisional ballot. They are required by law to give you one. Fill it out right there, and turn it in.
Above all, vote. If you have problems, call that number, 866-our-vote. Election day is November 6th, just days away. Alert your friends, share this message.
If you have read my stuff before, you know I often end my pieces with the phrase: “REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!”
Well, not this time.
Because November is no longer far away; it is upon us now.
Time to do our civic duty.
Time to vote.
Don C. Reed is a writer in Northern California.