Setting new records

San Francisco may be poised to set new records during this year’s quiet November election. According to an article in the S.F. Chronicle, this may be the first year in which absentee voters outnumber voters who go to the polls. The reason for this is that people who register to vote absentee are far more likely than other registered voters to actually cast a ballot. They have a range of times when they can sit down and make out their ballot at their convenience, whereas in-person voters may get caught up in events on Election Day and never get to the polls at all. Whether this change in voting patterns is good or bad is a matter of opinion. If the pattern holds, campaigning schedules may have to shift their focus to earlier in the fall because many absentee voters have made their choices weeks before Election Day. This year, however, the city may set another record, which is surely undesirable. November 2007 may have the lowest voter turnout ever in San Francisco. This prediction is based on the slow rate at which absentee votes are coming in, far more slowly than in the last two mayoral elections. Why is this? No one knows for sure, but the candidate races are not exciting. Everyone claimed to know who the winners would be before the first vote was cast. And ballot measures rarely excite voters enough to get them out to the polls. Add to that the debates over aging voting machines and the fact that returns are likely to be very slow in coming, and you get a situation in which only the most devoted civic activists will think it worthwhile to get out and vote. This is not good for anyone. The habit of voting grows with practice and the simple act of casting a ballot makes a citizen an active participant with full rights to complain and try to change government actions. If anyone needs encouragement to vote, they might turn to the League’s clear and objective statements on the pros and cons of each ballot measure for the November election. The statements are published today in the Entertainment section of the Chronicle. Read them, decide on your position, and then you can relax and choose your weekend movie.

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