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PATT MORRISON

A Vote With the Weight of 10

November 04, 1998|PATT MORRISON

The last thing you need to hear this morning is a lot of hectoring and scolding about what a naughty, naughty citizen you are for not voting in Tuesday's election.

Well, you won't hear that from me.

Heck, I'm glad you didn't vote.

If you don't know Gray Davis from gray pinstripes, I'm glad you didn't vote.

If you don't know Prop. 9 from a propman, I'm glad you didn't vote.

If you don't know Ronald George from Ronald McDonald, I'm thrilled you didn't vote.

And if you vote by the eenie-meenie-miney-mo method, if you vote just because Alanis Morissette or someone on MTV told you to, if you vote without the merest inkling of what an election is about--I hope you stayed home with Jerry Springer instead.

Because every vote that you don't cast makes my vote count more! Bill Clinton was elected president by the mighty weight of only 24% of the people who were entitled to vote.

So, when you gave a pass to the polling place, you gave my vote the strength of three, or five, or even 10! It's like political double coupons! If I didn't express my gratitude before, I sure do now. Thanks!

So, why should I be saying this--me, a Pollyanna for democracy--when every billboard and anchorman was nagging at you to vote?

Because your ignorant vote counts just as much as my informed one, and I hate that.

On election night 1996, the guy who cuts my hair asked his girlfriend whom she voted for, for president. She couldn't remember his name; at last she said, "I think it was the old guy."

The old guy! Doesn't that get your patriot juices pumping? Lexington and Concord! The Bill of Rights! Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner! The old guy! Hail, Columbia!

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Now, don't get peeved. You had more of a chance than most people in our nation's history.

Well into the 19th century, in some states only white male property owners could vote. American women were not allowed to vote until 1920. And although black men got the vote after the Civil War, they could be killed for daring to exercise it. Those names I just mentioned, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner? They were freedom riders, black and white, out to stop the intimidation of black voters in 1964, 99 years after the end of the Civil War. They were murdered for it, and segregation laws wouldn't even allow them to be buried in the same cemetery.

There's a bumper sticker out there that reads "Don't Vote--It Only Encourages Them." Maybe so. But whether you vote or not, there will still be 535 men and women sitting under that dome in D.C. casting votes about you. There will be nine Supreme Court justices chosen by a president somebody votes for, approved by senators somebody puts in office. If that somebody isn't you, it'll be the same corporate beggars and pious hand-wringers and fat cats it is now. And it isn't going to stop just because you want no part of it--unless you come up with something better, and that takes a helluva lot more energy and wit and passion than voting.

End of civics lecture.

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In Australia you can be fined for not voting. Here, we are carrot-driven, not stick-.

How about these blue-sky carrots: Your ballot stub can be redeemed for five free lottery tickets. Each primary-vote ballot stub is entered in a drawing for a limo ride to the polls and back for the general election. Staple your ballot stub to your 1040 form and get a $50 tax break.

Just the other night, about 30 of us were at my friend Paula's house for a ballot party, hashing it out candidate by candidate, proposition by proposition--

the players, the cash, the back story, the drama.

Take the time you'd spend on a week's worth of soaps-and-Springer and you'd find that politics is bona fide soap opera, full of more Shakespearean ambition and backstabbing and power and betrayal and riches (yes, OK, and sex) than any goofy, goopy, ginned-up TV show. Imagine "As the Rotunda Turns": Will Sen. Grommet propose an anti-

flag-burning amendment to throw voters off the trail of his secret million-dollar handshake with a Chinese textile company making flammable PJs that could burn up American kids like campfire marshmallows?

And with our love of spectacle, we could turn election night into political Oscars: the candidates, squirming and sweating in beads or black tie, the envelope being opened, and oh, look, it's . . . it's . . .

A commercial.

It's a vote--it's not a miracle.

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Patt Morrison's column appears Wednesdays. Her e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com.

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