For Shame

It’s easy to rationalize not voting. You can couch your apathy in disenchantment with the candidates and issues or disenfranchisement from the political process. You can argue that your one vote does not make a whole helluva lot of difference. You can blame the traffic or a lack of parking at your polling place. You can even say it’s your right not to vote.

For me it’s simply shameful not to vote. Maybe it’s kinda silly but when I turned 18 in 1982 I was actually excited that two years from then I would be voting in my first presidential election. It was an honor to me. A privilege. And from that point on I made it a point to get out and cast a ballot, whether it was to help decide who would lead our country or our state or our city or our deputy sheriffs or our dog catchers.

I considered it an obligation.

My voting record does not have a winning percentage. It seems more often than not I end up supporting a losing candidate or effort. But that never stops me from stepping to my designated polling place.

Actually, I can’t say “never.” I’ve failed to vote in two elections. The first was in the latter 1990s when I was living in Encino and I simply up and forget that there were some school board and community college trustee seats and a couple city measures up for grabs.

When I heard the news the next day and realized I’d done what I vowed never to do I was aghast. I was embarrassed. I quite literally got depressed. No longer could I say “I’ve voted every time I’ve been called on to.”

Well, it happened for the second time Tuesday. Only this time I can’t cop to it slipping my mind. That morning I even picked up my barely touched sample ballot and said flatly to Susan that there was an election happening.

She was genuinely surprised.

I told her that it was “nothing big,” mainly for some the LAUSD and LACCD boards representing our district and I third-heartedly thumbed through the ballot pages before tossing it onto the desk and somewhat sheepishly deciding that I wasn’t going to be participating in it.

“Seeing as I don’t know anything about the candidates I’d rather not vote than vote for the wrong person,” I said.

But that was bullshit on several levels. First off, I may not have known who I wanted to vote for, but I knew I didn’t want any of the LAUSD candidates Mayor Villaraigosa was attempting to steamroll into office to stack the board in favor of implementing his misbegotten school reform plan. Second, it was not even 8 a.m. in the morning, which meant there was plenty of time to at least attempt to become better acquainted and informed before the polls closed that evening. But instead I’d made up my mind to do the very thing I so vehemently despise.

I wasn’t ashamed right away. I was running late to work, which kept me busy throughout the day and afterwards I was focused more on the long crosstown commute to get me to an anticipated bloggers’ get-together in West Hollywood to even let it cross my mind with anything resembling traction.

If I were jive-ass I could attribute my failure to vote on a schedule conflict, namely my attendance at this mixer. Certainly had I not made an appearance there I would have gotten home in time to walk across Sunset Boulevard and do my electoral duty. But such an excuse doesn’t hold water. I elected not to make the time.

But even with the next day’s pathetic citywide voter turnout results and the various “why didn’t you vote” posts I read online while at home nursing my slow-to-recover equilibrium and a gimpy left hamstring, the guilt didn’t hit me.

It did today though — not because my vote would have changed the outcome of any of the races or anything like that. It wouldn’t have. And I made sure of that.