It’s almost election day, which means that you probably have a lot of questions about voting. Like “How do I vote? Where do I go? How many times can I vote?” Well, we’ll get to that. The important thing is to get out there and participate in democracy! I don’t care who you vote for, just as long as you vote. OK, yes I do. But I’m not supposed to say that. I’m just supposed to tell you that voting is good, so go ahead and cast your ballot, you ignorant swine.
First, you need to register. You can do this by mail or maybe when you get your license renewed or something. Nobody’s really sure, but the important thing is that you did, somehow. To vote, you must be older than 18 but younger than deceased and not in jail. It’s an inclusive process that has come a long way since the founding of the Commonwealth, when voting was restricted to fishmongers named Theodore. (Hence the early law, still on the books but seldom enforced, requiring citizens to greet one another with a hearty “Hail Ted!” and an offer of fresh scrod.)
Now that you’re registered, evidently, you need to find your local polling location. Voting always takes place in glamorous venues. It’s almost like going on vacation, if you vacation in abandoned DMV offices. Locations will vary by precinct, so you’ll need to check to see whether you’re voting in the high school boiler room or the oil-change pit at your local public works department.
You’ll know you’ve found your polling place when you see people outside trying to convince you to vote for their chosen candidates by giving you valuable gifts, such as nail files emblazoned with campaign logos. They’ll also hand you leaflets listing all the candidates on their side, so a fun thing to do is to take that leaflet and say, “Thanks for telling me who NOT to vote for, you idiots!” You should do this even if those are the people you’re going to vote for, just to teach them a lesson about the vagaries of democracy and the ineffectiveness of leaflets.
Once inside, you’ll have to make up your mind. There will be two main choices, plus maybe a third or a fourth choice if you’re feeling sassy. A bit of electoral trivia: In the 2000 presidential election, thousands of Floridians voted for a manatee named “Ralph Nader.”
But you’re not just voting for presidents and senators and, for some reason, sheriffs. You might be surprised, but there are other people running for other things, too! This will make you feel bad, because you really don’t know anything about those people. It seems wrong not to cast a vote, but there’s also the chance that you make an ill-informed vote and help elect a dogcatcher who spends more time cozying up to the powerful dog-catching lobby than out roaming the streets with his net. The solution is to frantically Google each candidate from the voting booth, to see if they’ve done anything to float your boat or chafe your britches. For instance, if you’re voting in the Eighteenth Middlesex District, you might look up state Rep. Rady Mom and learn that he co-sponsored a bill to punish people who drive too slowly (MA H.1511, “An Act Relative to Impeding the Flow of Traffic on Public Ways”). That is awesome and I’d expand it to make monster trucks street legal, but it’s a good start.
The ballot will also include referendums. Referendums are questions that the voters decide. They’re always clearly worded. Like “Do you not un-support un-outlawing recreational marijuana use, per se?” That’s one of the questions this year. Another concerns slot machines. I didn’t know much about that one, so I consulted the most reliable news source at my disposal: Facebook. There, my friend Craig wrote, “If your Aunt Nancy wants to smoke lung rockets, pee in a cup and win nine bucks on the loosest slots in Everett, who am I to deny her the pleasure? Vote yes.” Craig is verily the Thomas Paine of Holliston. But if you don’t have a friend who knows things, you can always make your decisions based on political ads. You should have done this a minimum of six months ago.
Political ads can even be referendums themselves, in a way. Scott Brown’s first Senate campaign was, more than anything, a referendum on barn coats. He stood there and asked the people of Massachusetts, “Can I still wear this? And if so, can I wear it in Washington?” Well, guess what? We still liked barn coats! I wear mine with a crisply ironed pair of dungarees.
When you’re done voting, you go home and await the results. Maybe things turned out the way you’d hoped. Maybe they didn’t. The important thing to remember is that we’re all Americans. So go greet your neighbor, the one with the lawn signs that you kept vandalizing, and make amends. Say “Hail, Ted!” and offer some scrod. Or else.