Voting Rights and Duties under Stormy Skies

Voting Rights and Duties under Stormy Skies


You won’t find the word in Websters. Siri thinks it’s a game. Google thinks it’s about electricity (which is a tad bit closer, but still off the mark).

Florida’s supervisors of elections know what it is. So does every seasoned political operative and experienced political candidate in Florida.

Electicane: an Election Day hurricane.

It actually doesn’t have to be a hurricane. A “no name” storm with intense rain, wind and lightning is enough. Further north, any combination of heavy precipitation (rain, sleet, or snow) and strong winds will do.

But “electizard” just doesn’t have the resonance of “electicane.”

With Invest 99L sputtering around to our south and east, the eyes of forecasters and campaign managers are on the spaghetti noodles of various computer models. Will it strengthen? Will it come onshore? Where? When?

An Election Eve or Election Day storm can challenge the smooth running of an election. It can be difficult to get the machines and ballots and records to the appropriate locations. Poll workers themselves can be confronted by storm-related travel delays. Power can be knocked out, making ballot-reading difficult and electronic scanning impossible. In more severe conditions, some polling places may become inaccessible and lines of communication may be disrupted.

But beyond the technical difficulties, what worries campaign managers and candidates is the effect of a storm on turnout.

In this era of polling and targeting and “big data,” many campaigns and candidates have fairly sophisticated notions about who their supporters are and where they live. We’ve had pretty good ideas about this for decades; we’ve just gotten much more finely grained in our ability to identify voters.

Some voters always show up at the polls. There could be a single obscure issue or office on the ballot and they’ll still vote. Weather, even a hurricane, is unlikely to deter them.

Other voters are more sporadic. They turn out for the “big” elections like presidential or gubernatorial elections. They’ll also make an appearance when there is someone or something they care deeply about on the ballot. Otherwise, they may vote, but only if prompted, and only if the obstacles to voting are minimal.

Still others rarely vote. Like the sporadic voter, they can be motivated to turn out, especially by direct and personal contact from real people with whom they have some connection. Bad weather, however, may keep them away from the polls.

There are those in political circles who would say that the only voters one should really care about are the ones who are committed to voting. Voting is a privilege, a solemn responsibility, not to be taken lightly or be set aside for mere convenience. Voters should be knowledgeable and committed to fulfilling their civic duty.

Folks in this circle might welcome Invest 99L becoming something of an Election Day event. And if their candidate is more popular among the determined voters than the more sporadic ones, that preference for stormy weather might be rather strong.

Such an attitude harkens back to the early days of our Republic, when gender, race and even possession of land determined one’s eligibility to vote. These attributes were considered to be indicators of those who had the competence and the independence of mind to exercise the franchise.

Over more than two centuries, we have slowly shed these ideas in favor of a more inclusive notion of the right to vote. We still struggle over this, both for philosophical and for partisan reasons.

The voice that seems to prevail, the one that keeps pushing us to open access to the polls, is even older than our Constitution. It is the rallying cry of American Revolutionaries who protested the exercise of government authority from London on a people who were not allowed to select a single member of Parliament.

Taxation without representation is tyranny.

All of us are taxed . . . some more, some less. Taxes and other public sources of revenue are necessary to the securing of domestic tranquility and the fostering of the general welfare, as our Founders would have put it. We all benefit from these works of government; we all contribute to their provision. Even the poorest of the poor pay sales tax, fuel tax and other fees.

All of us, once our status as adult citizens has been secured, have a right to be heard.

And all of us, if we wish to be heard, have a duty to show up at the polls.

Rain or shine.

2 Responses to Voting Rights and Duties under Stormy Skies

  • Beverly Williams

    You said something that brought back memories. I was working at a precinct and after the polls closed, I picked food at Publix we had ordered to watch the results com in, I ran into a lady and while waiting in the line to check out, I asked her if she had voted. Her answer was no, she was picking up her daughter after School where the precinct was located, however she did not vote because her daughter had already walked away from the school. This was in 2004, I am still amazed at her answer. Not only did she not exercise her Right to Vote, more importantly what did this action tell her daughter?

    • Dr. Scott Paine

      I know so many kids who love to get those ‘I Voted’ stickers to wear when their parents get them . . . how could a parent miss such an opportunity? 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting, Commissioner.