Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Thank You For Voting

Office of Napa County Elections Division, Napa, California, USA

Midterm Election Day, November 6, 2018

"There's only one thing more important than who you vote for, and it's that you vote at all." ... Laurence Platt

This essay, Thank You For Voting, is the sequel to A World Elsewhere.

It is also the prequel to

Self Portrait by Laurence Platt

Office of Napa County Elections Division
Napa, California, USA

5:49:01pm Midterm Election Day
Tuesday November 6, 2018

I'm not a South African* although I speak with a South African accent. I wasn't born there. I was born in London England, a "cockney". I grew up in South Africa from 1950 through 1971 during the politically disgusting apartheid  years. That's where my accent originated, yet I was never naturalized there. In South Africa at that time, 85% of the constitutionally disenfranchised population were denied the right to vote. Listen: depriving / denying people the opportunity to participate and express themselves in the future matters of their own country and of their own lives, is arguably the cruelest crime against humanity of them all.

So it was astonishing to me then, to learn that in the 2016 presidential election in this land of the free United States, forty  ... seven  ... percent  ... (yes that is nearly half  the population) who had the perfectly legal and constitutionally guaranteed and protected and long-and-hard-fought-for  right to vote didn't even bother to show up to vote at all. What?! Wanting not merely to vote (that too) but to participate fully in the voting process, I took a job as an election official in the recent midterm election in Napa county in California where I live. The job I envisioned ie the job I wanted to get, would be one in which I was close up, face to face, and in conversation with voters as they cast their ballots. That's the job I got.

We (ie the election commission) set up drive-through voting stations throughout our county. At each station was a slotted, locked ballot box about the size of a large suitcase. Voters drove by, passed me their sealed voting envelopes which I scrutinized for errors, then dropped through the slot into the ballot box in their full view. Then I turned to to them and said "Thank You for voting", my sentiments from the previous paragraphs left unspoken yet implied. This process was repeated with the next one ("Thank You for voting") then with the next one ("Thank You for voting") then with the next one etc etc on and on all throughout the day.

When I said that, people who were looking stoically straight ahead, turned to look at me, scrutinized my face, then said (as if reflecting on what they'd just done) "... yeah!  ..." and drove away, now smiling (I made sure they got it). Some of them replied to me "Thank You for being here and doing this!" ("You're welcome" I said). It was a moment of magic with each person. I made sure they realized they were actually ... voting  (they had to give up just going through the motions  of voting).

Then there were "walk-ups" ie people who, rather than drive through the station, walked up with their votes. After I checked their ballot envelopes for accuracy, I asked them "Would you like to post it into the ballot box yourself?". "Really? Can  we?" said two women. "Of course" I said. The first one posted her ballot (hearing the audible thunk  as the ballot landed inside the box, was particularly satisfying for the walk-ups). She just stood there, and said "Wow! ...".

The second one took out her iPhone, and asked me "Please take a photograph of me voting" which I did: she held her ballot envelope halfway through the slot in the voting box, and smiled - but it wasn't just a happy-snap Instagram  kind of smile: it was a smile of pride, a smile of accomplishment, a smile of making a difference. And so it went throughout the day: "Thank You for voting" and "Thank You for voting" and "Thank You for voting" over and over and over, so incorrigibly far from apartheid's disgusting "You're denied the right to vote" and "You're denied the right to vote" and "You're denied the right to vote" over and over and over.

There's only one thing more important than who you vote for, and it's that you vote at all.

* The fact that I speak with a South African accent although I'm not a South African, is of minimal interest. A matter of history, it's documented in The Laurence Platt Story.

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