I was small when my parents first took me voting. Renton was still using the large voting machines with levers. I had to wait outside the machine but tried to peek through the curtain to get a good look at the levers. I wanted to be an adult so I could vote, and the awesome machines were an extra reason.
I got to register to vote in high school when I was 17. That way, I could vote as soon as I turned 18. By then I was in college, so I voted absentee. That was on cards: no machines, but it was still pretty great. By the time I graduated and moved to California, the old lever machines had been replaced by "modern" gear. I still liked voting.
A blank bumper sticker came in the mail. It said, "I ♥ _____." I stared at it for about ten seconds, found a marker, and wrote, “VOTING.”
California mailed out a voter information guide for state offices and referendums for each election. Some candidates listed their qualifications, or the newspaper listed their qualifications, but I didn't always know how to match the qualifications to what some of the roles did. I had a pretty good feel for what the Governor did: I'd learned about the President's duties in my Simulated American Government class, and the Governor's job was similar. Still, Controller and Secretary of State didn't mean much to me, so I didn't know how to match the skills to what the officeholders actually did. One time, there was a page in the back of the voter guide for suggestions. I said we needed job descriptions, and after that, they were included.
I still liked voting, but some things were frustrating. Sometimes someone tried to run for President or another office in a third party, or there were two candidates I liked splitting the vote. I couldn’t seriously consider voting for the third-party candidate for President. Sometimes, I wanted to use my vote to say, "I like this third-party candidate. I support his or her policies or like them best." Maybe if enough people did that, they could win. But if I tried that, the candidate I liked least could win - one who could cause the most harm to people needing good government. So I didn’t vote third-party, at least not in a Presidential election where it might matter. Maybe the third-party candidate would've had a chance to win if splitting the vote and getting someone unpopular elected wasn't a risk.
Then in 2003, California faced financial troubles, and Governor Gray Davis was recalled in an election that allowed voters to choose whether or not to replace him and then to choose his replacement. While the recall election itself required a large number of petition signatures, becoming a candidate to replace the Governor was relatively easy.
All told, there were 135 candidates. A few were serious contenders. Some wanted celebrity status or bragging rights: it would be fun to tell the grandkids about the time they ran for governor. Others wanted to share their views. There was an opportunity for candidates to purchase space in the voter guide if they accepted a voluntary expenditure limit. Some who qualified did just that. The English version of that voter guide is here. (The governor's job description is on page 10.)
As a then-California-voter, I decided to read some of the candidate statements. One candidate, Peter Miguel Camejo, mentioned that, among other issues, he stood for "instant runoff elections." Instant runoff is another name for ranked choice voting. I went to the internet and read about it. I thought, "Oh wow! That changes everything!" I liked the idea that it might avoid the "spoiler" problem in close elections, giving those so-called spoiler candidates a real chance and taking away the penalty for voting for them. I talked to a few friends about it, saying, "Hey, isn't this a neat idea?" Then, I went on with my life.
Last year, I got a chance to join the team working to get ranked choice voting onto the Oklahoma ballot as a State Question. Finally! At the meeting, I found out that a bunch of other US cities, at least two states, and Australia have gotten or are in the process of getting ranked choice voting. I want this for Oklahoma, and I joined the statewide team.
I'm not a terrible public speaker, but I don't do well with hard questions requiring an immediate response. I need time to think about things. So I joined the Policy and Research team, which works to anticipate the hard questions about ranked choice voting and provide answers. Policy and Research shares reports and information so the "persuasion" teams (Endorsements and Speakers, Live Outreach, Fundraising) can do their jobs. There are also volunteer opportunities in data/tech, art, social media, and leadership. The team at Rank the Vote Oklahoma even let me write this blog post.
I give a little money to the team as well: Rank the Vote Oklahoma needs donor support for the software we use for organizing and grassroots networking. Later, we will need funds for polling, getting ranked choice voting onto the ballot, advertising, and more.
I want to love voting again. I think this will help.
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