Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Just a Few More Weeks to E-Day!

As promised, I’m going to break from the non-political tradition I try to maintain in this column to write a few words about the coming presidential election.

Normally, I stay away from politics here, in order to avoid any conflicts of interest, since I am occasionally involved in ongoing state and local political campaigns. (Also, it’s boring to me. I would much rather write about weight-loss contests; or new words I’ve invented; or my plan to have football, Frisbee, “horse”, and NASCAR added as events in the Olympics to make it fair for the American team; or how, as a youngster, I learned to water-ski behind a Buick because we didn’t own a boat.)

From time to time, however, I do weigh in politically, but always try to offer a disclaimer to let readers know of any potential conflicts which might exist.

Back in January, prior to our state’s presidential primaries, I spent a couple of weeks writing only positive things about each of the Democratic and Republican candidates running. I took the position that each of the candidates had certain merits, but those merits were often overshadowed by the mainstream media’s fixation on covering the controversial, the negative, and the process itself.

I am going to take the same approach to writing about Obama and McCain: putting on my bi-partisan hat to attempt to find good, solid reasons voters might have for choosing either of these gentlemen.

This week, however, I want to spend a few paragraphs simply making sure YOU and your neighbors participate, regardless of whom you might prefer.

While interest in the 2008 election seems to be at an all-time high – fueled largely by the fact that this WILL be an historic election, with either the election of an African-American President or a female Vice-President – there will still be MILLIONS of people eligible to participate who will not vote.

The first step is making sure you are registered to vote.

In order to vote, you must be registered at least 30 days in advance. That means by Saturday, October 4th.

If you have moved recently, you should re-register at your new address. If you have moved to from one county to another, you will not be able to vote unless you have re-registered. If you have moved INSIDE the same county but not re-registered, you should be allowed to vote for president, but it will be a hassle, and you will not be allowed to vote for local offices. So… even if you have just moved a few blocks, you should play it safe and re-register. And... make sure everyone else in your household has registered.

Anyone who will be 18 years old by Nov. 4th can register NOW in order to vote in the 2008 election.

You can register to vote by visiting your county voter registration board and completing an application, or by visiting the S.C. State Election Commission website – www.scvotes.org -- and downloading the mail-in voter registration application, completing it, and mailing it to your county board of voter registration. (The registration form can also be used to update your address and make other changes to your voter registration information.) If you mail an application, your local registration board will mail you a voter registration card before Election Day.

The second step is…. actually voting!!!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: you don’t have to wait until Nov. 4th to cast your vote.

Under current state law, almost anyone can vote in advance by absentee ballot. You can go to your voter registration office, where you will be allowed to complete and return an application and then vote on the spot… or you can request an application by mail, and never have to leave your home.

The law allows you to vote in advance if you: 1) will be working on election day; or, 2) are over 65; or, 3) will be out of the county on election day. (NOTE: You don’t need to be out of the county ALL DAY; nor do you need to be working all day… just any part of the day.) If you will be working, and simply prefer not to leave work in order to vote, you’re eligible to vote by absentee ballot.

Here’s a little piece of trivia: Do you know who changed the law to allow all working people and senior citizens the right to vote by absentee ballot?

If you said Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, you were right! But long before he became Lt. Governor. When he was first elected to the House of Representatives in Nov., 1996, he observed people standing in line to vote, sometimes for several hours, and others who went back to work without voting because they could not afford to miss that much work. The following day, as his first legislative action – even before he was sworn in to office – he drafted the proposal that would eventually become law, and arranged to have it filed as his first piece of legislation. Since that time, the number of people voting by absentee ballot has increased in every election cycle. (BOLD DISCLAIMER: I should mention, by the way, that the Lt. Governor is one of those candidates in whose campaign I am occasionally involved… just like I was mentioning at the beginning of the column!)

Anyway, I encourage you to take advantage of your right to vote by absentee ballot so you will not end up in a long line on Election Day… unless, of course, you enjoy long lines. They do tend to remind us of Disney World, don’t they? And I always end up seeing lots of people I haven’t seen in a while!

So, in review: Step One, make sure you’re registered; and, Step Two, make sure you vote… in advance if it makes a difference.

I’ll be back soon to talk about Step Three: Making Your Choice!

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