Voting system is ineffective and out-of-date

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I accompanied my roommate to vote in the Vermont state primaries Aug. 9. The process of voting was more or less a farce.

I wasn’t voting, since I’m registered back home in DC, but I wanted David Zuckerman to win the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. He had sponsored legislation in the Vermont Senate to legalize marijuana and to label genetically modified food.

All the candidates for governor on the Democratic side had been locked in a battle to pick up Sen. Bernie Sanders’s mantle with policies like raising the minimum wage and getting big money out of politics. But none of the candidates seemed to really care about firing up young voters, like Bernie did.

My roommate had voted for Sanders in the presidential primaries, so we went back to the same polling place where he had voted then. He was asked for his name there, and he produced his ID.

They waved off the ID, making a big show of it, because Vermont is one of the states, one of the states in the majority, I might add, that does not require voters to present their IDs when they vote. Other states, like Texas, have imposed voter ID laws which have been shown to disproportionately prevent African Americans, especially the elderly, from voting.

A part of me thinks voter ID laws make sense. I have to show my ID to people (if bouncers are really people; I think most of them have no souls) all the time, and they tend to scrutinize the hell out of it. I mean, come on, have you never seen a DC ID before? You see that panel in the corner? You can’t fake that stuff.

Your ID is just something you got to have on you.

On the other hand, the issue is not about IDs; it’s about voting. There are a lot of people, mostly older people who don’t drive anymore, who don’t have a valid form of ID. Voter ID laws intentionally prevent these people from voting.

With voter turnout as low as it is, we should be making sure as many people vote as possible.

But whereas voter ID laws target older people, another set of obstacles prevent young people from voting. First of all, the media focus on national races, not the local elections that you have a greater say in.

Unless you’re a cranky bastard like me, an old person at heart, you’re not tuning into VPR to hear the latest about what’s going on in Vermont politics. Nor are you picking up a copy of the Burlington Free Press to see what’s up.

Online news sources like the Huffington Post will show you videos of animals doing cute things, but will not inform you about what Phil Scott or Sue Minter stand for.

Second, voting is inconvenient. It’s a sacred duty that few people will bother going to their local library or school to carry out. But it is very easy to vote early or get an absentee ballot. I think voting in person is pretty obsolete.

More young people would vote if they could do it from their phones. The technology certainly exists to make sure online voting were secure, but the political will is not there.

As I wrote about the presidential primaries last spring, while elections are the cornerstone of our representative democracy, the actual voting process is not high on any state’s list of priorities. Voting takes place on a Tuesday. Most people have things to do on a Tuesday.

So, after making a big deal about not needing my roommate’s ID, the woman with the voter rolls mistook the spelling of his name and couldn’t find his name in the books even after we both kept chanting, “Murthy with a TH not a PH.” “Murphy?” she kept asking. “No, Murthy with a TH, not a PH.”

My roommate finally got out his ID again and showed her how to spell his name. She was very embarrassed. After all that though, it turned out he had to go to another polling place across town. Not very convenient. Many people would have just gone home after that.

We went to the other polling place, the Arts School in the North End, and my roommate got his ballot.

I stood around and played Pokemon Go.

The third obstacle to young people voting is that it’s not much fun. Voting should be a community event where everyone comes together. Imagine Summervale, with pizza from American Flatbread and beer from Zero Gravity, but with voting.

State and federal elections should be celebrations of democracy and celebrations of our communities, not dreary events that take place in whatever polling place they sent you to after you went to the one you thought was the right one.

All you get after you successfully get to the right polling place and explain to the nice polling people how to spell your name is a lousy sticker. Local businesses should get involved to encourage voting.

Give people a 50 percent off coupon for Leonardo’s and some free beer and you bet they’re going to vote.

According to Ballotpedia, the total number of votes cast in the August primary came out to about 110,000, less than a fifth of Vermont’s population. We must make voting easier, more convenient and more fun to get more people to participate.