Sunday, August 27, 2006

1-800-232-VOTA: Remember to Vote in November

With only two months left before the November elections, it occurs to me that many people---those legions of Asian Pacific Americans, African Americans, Latino/a voters, Native Americans, Packer fans, weekend golfers, poets and priests, teachers and baristas, the working class, college students, the new immigrants and/or the elite, the disenfranchised and the thousands of (North) Americans who want back into the voting booths after too many years of Republican extremism---may be going to polls in larger numbers than normal. At least, I hope so. There is a lot riding on these “midterm” elections, including one important local race in Fresno, California, where Blong Xiong is in a run-off with Scott Miller for the District 1 seat on Fresno’s seven person City Council. In the nine years I have lived in Fresno, there has not been a single Asian Pacific American on the Council, so Blong Xiong’s candidacy is important, in my opinion. There are also important Congressional races across the country that will have significant implications for the 2008 Presidential election, among other important reasons to vote.

But what really occurs to me, at the moment, is a bit more basic (than issues that usually get me seething like the Downing Street Memo, Valerie Plame, and the fat pockets of Halliburton subsidiaries). What I am thinking about today is my sinking feeling that many people do not vote, not because they are disenfranchised or distrust politicians, but because they simply don’t know how. It’s understandable, right? Maybe they registered years ago, moved to a new state, and missed the deadline. Maybe they don’t know how to navigate the system. Maybe they speak limited English, further complicating the process and exacerbating their apathy. Maybe, like you and me, they’re busy and just forget. We’re all human. Look, I have a graduate degree in English, I have volunteered for Democratic organizations over the years (and voted since 1988), and my thesis (I was not yet a poet) was on the Aristotelian qualities of John F. Kennedy’s crisis rhetoric---but if somebody asked me on the street, “How do I register to vote?” I wouldn’t exactly know what to tell them. I might mumble something about the post office or the DMV, but the likelihood of the person then driving to the DMV is slim. I consider myself politically active, and I’m not even sure about deadlines and procedures. So I looked around a bit in order to present some information, just in case there are a few folks out there who could use some pointers or reminders.

Here are a few worth knowing:

• The deadline to register to vote is 15 days before election day (in California). However, California’s Secretary of State (Bruce McPherson) advises that you register 1 month before election day to avoid missing out on your chance to vote due to “postal delays.” Therefore, since election day is a little over two months away and postal delays are a fact of life, I would encourage new (or returning) voters to register now, or by September 30 to be safe. This is a deadline you don’t want to miss.

• If you are a California resident (I am, hence the California information in this post), there are online voter registration forms here.

• Wherever you live, simply Google the phrase “{State Name} Secretary of State” and you will find your state’s voting information, deadlines, and forms.

• In California, for more information, you can contact the Secretary of State's office at any of the following toll-free numbers, so language barriers do not have to be voting barriers.

• English: 1-800-345-VOTE
• Spanish: 1-800-232-VOTA
• Chinese: 1-800-339-2857
• Vietnamese: 1-800-339-8163
• Japanese: 1-800-339-2865
• Tagalog: 1-800-339-2957
• Korean: 1-866-575-1558

These are just some basics on the voting process to get started. If your Filipina or Korean relatives are citizens, get dialing. I realize this might be Government 101 for some of you, but I hope it will help a few people at least. Once they vote, then they are in the mix and can more authoritatively (at least they will have voted) enter debates on immigration, war, gas prices, the environment, and our growing deficit---much less the need for better APA representation in Congress and local government.

Happy voting in November. Cheers.

*This post also appears at Asian Pacific Americans for Progress.


Michael Parker said...

Great info, Lee! Keep up the good work.

Lee Herrick said...

Thanks, Michael.

BTW, if anyone would like information on Blong Xiong, his website is

jenni said...

Very good info, Lee. Thank you. And I love the blog as a writing space!

Lee Herrick said...

Thank you, Jenni. And yes, the blog as a way to write/explore in small ways towards an eventual poem feels pretty good right now.

how is your memoir writing process going?