Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2004 / 9 Tishrei, 5765

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Voting rocks | Jay Leno recently asked a man on the street when the presidential election is. "Next year," the guy said. Pressed for a date, he answered, "October 15." He had the wrong year, the wrong month and the wrong date, but on the upside, his wait in line should be really short.

This is that time of year when people wring their hands and lament low voter turnout. They beg, plead and whine until the people who are not registered to vote become so annoyed they drag themselves off the couch and run for another bag of chips.

Here's a new idea: If people don't want to vote, don't make them.

Don't get me wrong. I am totally and completely in favor of voting. I am so in favor of voting that if I lived in Chicago, I might try to vote twice. Three times, even.

But I'm wondering, in a strictly non-partisan, civic-minded, I-love my-country-as-much-as-Lee-Greenwood kind of way, would it be all bad if the folks we are pressuring to vote actually knew something about the voting process? About how the system works? About what a government does?

I'm not saying anyone needs to pass a mandatory test. I'm not even saying would-be voters need to know the date of the election; I'm just saying it wouldn't be all bad if they knew some basics like, oh, who the Supremes are as in Court.

I'm not even saying would-be voters needs to know the names of generals from the Civil War. But it might be nice if they knew whether it was between the East and the West, the North and the South or the Italians and the Swedes.

The MTV creation, Rock the Vote, is targeting would-be voters by taunting, "Lil' Kim gets registered. Are you?" Apparently they expect the 18-30 crowd to think, wow, if Lil' Kim registered, I better register, too.

One of the perks of age is graduating from the 18-30 demographic. Few groups face greater condescension and patronization.

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If you doubt the veracity of that statement, go to the Buy Stuff page on the Rock the Vote Web site. To demonstrate commitment to the voting process, and democracy in general, you can buy Rock the Vote T-shirts, Give a Sh*t T-shirts, Rock the Vote caps and Rock the Vote thongs (only available in size large and color black). Hard to imagine James Madison and Thomas Jefferson hawking T-shirts and unmentionables to further the cause of civic responsibility.

Cheesy merchandise isn't really why you vote. Lil' Kim (and I'm glad she registered) isn't why you vote. Even your mother nagging isn't why you vote, although it doesn't hurt to listen to her.

Here's why we vote: We vote because hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans have died in battles protecting our liberty and insuring our freedom. This freedom is so one-of-a-kind wonderful that Haitians attempt to cross shark-infested waters in rickety boats made out of cheap orange crates. Mexicans risk dehydration and death crawling through the desert sand for a taste of what we take for granted.

We vote because it is a privilege to be part of the process. We vote because it is our way of affecting your government and, baby, you better believe our government is affecting us. Government is involved in everything we do: from the paycheck we earn, to the roads we drive, the gasoline we pump, the Internet we surf, and the food we eat. Our government tends to the details — like whether the War on Terror is fought over there or over here.

That's why we vote.

For voter registration info (without the goofy merchandise) go to League of Women Voters site

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.


© 2004, Lori Borgman