Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Erin's Going to Vote!

Erin Studies the Issues

Erin Campaigns for President

Erin's Congressman and His Evil Twin, Bat Boy

Erin Prepares to Cast Her Ballot

About two months ago my lovely case manager and I were driving back to the hotel and I told her I had been called for jury duty. I asked Erin if she had ever served on a jury.
"No, I haven't," she said. "How do they even know to call you?"
"Well usually they get your name from the voter registration lists," I told her. "Are you registered to vote?"
"In New Jersey," she told me.
"New Jersey? You're not registered to vote here?"
"Aren't you going to vote in the next election?" I asked.
"I suppose," she said. "Do I have to let the people in New Jersey know I'm changing?"
"No. I'll get you a registration form."
"Thanks Rick."
I needn't have done that. She could have registered instantly online, but I quite frankly didn't trust her to get that done on her own. My lovely case manager gets... distracted at times if she's not watched carefully.
Right after we returned I took off to the Central Library downtown and got her a voter registration form and brought it back to her.
"Thanks Rick," she said and smiled. "All I have to do is fill this out and send it in?"
My motive for getting Erin involved in the California election process was not a selfish one. I had no intentions in trying to influence the way she would vote other than by discussing my views with her in the course of normal conversation. Views she could easily learn by reading this blog.
I just wanted her to get involved in her civic duty as an informed citizen of the United States, and the state of California where she now resides. I had no idea how she would vote, or what her political opinions were. I don't think she even had any. Erin's life at this point seems to be completely filled with various social functions to the exclusion of most everything else.
Which I can't criticize her for. I was much, much worse at her age.
But I did think it important that she took a little time off from her normal activities and get involved in the election process and at least consider the issues involved. After all, it is an important election. The 2010 midterm elections would if nothing else decide if the country would be able to continue to pull itself out of the abyss the Republicans had placed us in however feebly, or be locked in certain congressional deadlock for the next two years.
Our country and the world really does not have the luxury of being unable to get anything done for the next month, let alone a couple of years, until the presidential election in 2012.
Perhaps this would be the impetus Erin needed, the teensy weensy little push she required, to develop a genuine interest in politics and the world we live in. Perhaps this would push her into a career in civics. Perhaps she'd become a community organizer in Santa Monica, as did Barack Obama in Chicago. Perhaps she'd decide to run for local office, win, then run for state senator, win, and be offered the chance to make the keynote speech at the 2024 Democratic Convention in San Francisco, maybe she'd run for the U.S. Senate, then maybe, just maybe... maybe my lovely case manager is a future President of the United States of America (see Erin for President, from 9/07/09), and it would all be because of me!
Hey! It could happen. Besides Erin seemed genuinely interested in wanting to participate in the election. I wasn't pushing her to do something she didn't want to do. And she had a genuine interest in many of the issues involved in electing her Congress-person and Senator, and many of the ballot measures. Hell, she wanted to vote. I was only helping.
A week or two later we made arrangements to meet in her office for our normal Tuesday morning breakfast together. She said she needed to see me in her professional capacity as my case manager for an official case management session which she could document in her records. I would make the breakfast. Egg and cheese sandwiches (soy mozzarella).
She asked her questions.
"What progress have you made in the last six months Rick?"
"And what are your goals for the next six months?"
"I don't have any."
"Okay, we're good to go," she said.
"Did you send in your voter registration form?" I asked her.
"Uuummm, no. Not yet."
I made her fill it our right then and there. We placed it in the mail box on Central Ave. later in the day as we drove to the frozen yogurt store for that day's Drama Free Support Group, with Paul and Hardy. We would play 7 card stud there, and eat yogurt.
The next Tuesday we were eating bagel breakfast sandwiches at the little Novel Cafe on Traction Avenue, wonderful place, when we began talking about politics. She was very interested.
"Okay tell me Rick," she said at one point in the conversation. "What does a Senator do?"
This question did not particularly alarm me. Unless you took an inordinate amount of American History or Civics classes in high school, or in college, probably the role of a Senator would be unclear to most people. Considering the current state of the Senate I doubt if most Senators know what the role of a Senator is. And in this country, according to a 2006 survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 cannot find Iraq on map despite being at "war" with the country for over 3 years.
I worry about the United States.
I explained as best as I could what it was a Senator was supposed to do. How many there were. What a Congressman does in the House of Representatives. Why Schwarzenegger can't run again (termed out). What termed out meant. Various other things. Erin soaked up this knowledge, asking questions here and there. We finished our bagels and left.
Last week we ate at McDonalds. Egg McMuffin combos!
"Have you been studying that measures appearing on the election ballot, Erin?" I asked.
"I still haven't received anything, Rick."
"You need to check with the County Registrar, Erin."
"All right."
"You should have received something by now."
"I know. I haven't gotten anything."
"Well, what do you think about the legalization of Marijuana?" I asked her. She proceeded to tell me what she thought about it.
"Why? Is it going to be on the ballot?"
"Why yes, Erin, it is."
"I had no idea..."
She asked me a good deal of questions about the actual voting process, and seemed to be concerned that the lines at the polling places would be too long for her. I told her that's why they spread them out, so hopefully the lines wouldn't be very long.
"I've never had to wait very long to vote," I told her.
"So what will my yes vote on the marijuana mean. I mean if I vote yes, does that mean I'm voting to make marijuana legal... or keep it the way it is now... illegal. Will that be explained to me?"
A valid question.
"Hopefully you'll have all of that figured out before you even go into the voting booth, Erin. They actually want you to fill out your sample ballot before you go there, so you can just mechanically transfer the information onto the ballet. Please don't be like my friend Ron and try to make up your mind after you get there."
"Oh, okay."
I sent her an Email last Saturday requesting she set aside some time Tuesday morning for an hour long case management session. "My case needs to be managed quite badly," I told her.
Monday morning I gave her a "Vote by Mail," application I had received and didn't need. I always vote early by mail.
"Oh, good Rick. Thanks." She filled it out and I took it to the post office on 7th Street and mailed it for her.
Yesterday morning at 8:30AM I took to Erin's office my ballot, my Voter Information Guide, and two breakfast burritos (eggs and cheese. Monterey Jack). We ate the burritos, then went over the Voter Guide. We took our time.
"Roommate night last night?" I asked her.
"Yeah," she said shaking her pretty head affirmatively. Erin lives with 3 other ladies.
"Are they going to vote?"
"I don't know. I should have asked them."
We also utilized the Internet on her office computer. She got to see what the different candidates looked like. I told her what Jerry Brown had said at the first debate he had with his opponent, former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman, when asked what would be different now from when you were govenour the first time, back in the 70s and 80s. I told her he said something like, "Well I'm older now and married. I won't be spending my time closing the bars in Sacramento."
Erin liked that and smiled. "I'm going to vote for that guy," she told me.
She wasn't going to vote for Brown because he used to carouse. Erin was interested in some specific issues and she thought, quite rightly, that Democrats would better deal with those issues than the Republicans.
"Do you remember who your Congressman is?' I asked.
"The Mustache of Justice?"
"Oh yeah, I remember you telling me that."
"His name is Henry Waxman."
Erin of course lives in Santa Monica and has one of the best Congressmen looking out for her interests, the honorable Henry Waxman, aka the Mustache of Justice, the scourge of the Bush Administration.
Erin looked up his photo on her computer. For some reason there were many pictures available that compared her congressman with other clownish, cartoon, or horror figures. I don't know why.
"How cruel!" Erin complained, laughing a little. "I hope he doesn't look at his own pictures on Google," she said.
We looked over a few more issues, Erin seemed interested in going over the Voter Guide at her leasure, then she dismissed me.
My work is done. I have planted the seed of public interest in my young friend, and have provided the tools for her to fly off on her own.
Look out world, Erin's on her way!
And now, just for the pure sweet hell of it, a photo of Erin after the aliens got finished with her:

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