Marshall Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc, and Festus can’t vote in Dodge City, Kansas. Not because they are dead, though that could also be a problem. They can’t vote in Dodge City because it only has one polling place for its 1,300 voters. And it’s a mile and a quarter out of town, over a mile from the closest bus stop.
When you see the folks in charge trying to explain how this isn’t voter suppression, you begin to notice the contortions they are going through are much like those you see in the Cirque du Soleil show, “Zummanity.” How can people bend themselves into pretzels that way?
We work to avoid those problems here in California. The best option we have for voting in California is the Permanent Absentee Ballot. You just fill it out and mail it back in. No stamp or waiting in a long line required. But even with this most convenient option, large portions of registered voters won’t bother to vote. Aren’t those the same folks who are often the loudest complainers about the state of affairs with regulations and taxes?
Perhaps we can take a lesson from the Australians. Strange as it may seem, Australia has been a model of democracy that the United States has learned from before. They adopted universal suffrage and the secret ballot long before we did. Australia also requires that all citizens vote. Voting is not voluntary in Australia. Citizens who fail to vote are subject to a fine.
That gives Australia a voter turnout well over 95 percent. With this large turnout, the political parties don’t have to resort to increasingly polemic tactics to get their base to vote. Everybody votes, not just the lunatic fringe base. The fringe thinkers are lost in a big crowd of moderate consensus builders. They are able to keep the country going in the direction most folks want it to. Not swerving from side to side as one extremist after the next tries to wrest control of the steering wheel from the last one.
Most of us take great pride in the democracy we built here. We often do so by burning a hunk of cow flesh over a flame and washing it down with beer while watching Chinese fireworks explode on July the 4th. We might be better served with a holiday on November the 6th. A holiday where we all take the day off to go vote. Celebrating our hard fought for right to vote by voting. Or pay a fine if we don’t.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.