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Daily Journal
     February 18, 2020      #57-49 KDJ
 

Ron Jackson: Educating the first-time voter 

By Ron Jackson

The more things change, they more they stay the same.

I would like to think it was just yesterday, but it was nearly 45 years ago when I was asked if I had voted. The first time I was eligible to cast a ballot was the 1976 presidential election. With no clue what to do or who to vote for, I was expected to participate in what was described to me as my most important civic responsibility.

Now, nearly a half century later, I find myself holding accountable a first-time eligible voter to that same responsibility. Besides registering to vote, he must also register with the U.S. Selective Service.

“Did you register to vote? You do know there is an election coming, don’t you?” I asked.

With a look of pure astonishment, he said, “Yeah, you mean the 2020 election? And I am waiting on you to take me to register”.

While somewhat impressed that he knew of the upcoming November election, I explained that we also have a local primary election March 17.

“What’s a primary election?” he asked.

After explaining to him the primary election is a municipal election to determine which local candidates move on to the general election to be voted on to hold office. I also informed him that early voting is currently underway.

Befuddled, he wanted to know who and what positions were up for grabs. And why do people get to vote early. He also wasn’t sure of his political affiliation.

The who and what was easy to answer. “Have you noticed any big signs, most likely in red or blue in yards with a name and position on them? Next time, remember the name and look them up on Facebook and learn all you can about them. Then, vote accordingly. As for what political party you more closely align, I have no clue and could not recommend one over the other. However, in Illinois, to vote in a primary election, you must choose a party specific ballot and only vote for candidates of that party,” was all I could come up with.

“If I don’t know what party I am, how do I know which ballot to ask for? And why do people need to vote early anyway?” he pondered.

I did not attempt to explain why he had to pull a single party ballot because I couldn’t. I told him if there were multiple candidates for different races and of different parties, he had to choose one to vote for and forsake the other in hope they make it to the general election. But I did tell him the early voting system was implemented in order to make voting more accessible to more people who might have plans to be ill on the scheduled Election Day. Noticing his confusion, I poured it on by explaining that for instance, some people know in advance that they are going to be ill on a family reunion date six months away. Or that a person might plan to be sick on a friend’s wedding day merely because he or she might not like the future spouse. And, of course, there is always the plan to be under the weather during any scheduled vacation with in-laws.

As promised, all I can do is to make sure he gets registered to vote. After that, he is on his own to become an informed voter. I am confident he will be. After all, he is quick to point out that he’s rocking an “A” in his current government class.

Ron Jackson is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal.

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