On the morning of the election, I went to the voting place for my district. In less than 5 minutes, I was done. The next day I was talking with a student from Philadelphia who stood in line for over 4 hours. Each time I vote, I say hello to the other people there and I do not hide my accent. One of my students had a very different experience when she was asked when she will return to Jamaica, even though she has been an American citizen for over 20 years and all her children were born here.
Every four years I make sure that I go to vote. I also vote for every local and state election. I was raised in a communist country where we were told how to vote, there was often only one candidate on the ballot, and people knew if you did not vote and held it against you. Because of my experiences in Yugoslavia, I never ask my wife or children how they vote. Politically I am a centrist and I vote across the ballot.
The ballot system in the United States needs help. If anyone talks with people in the election offices, they tell us that few people change their voting information and it stays there for a long time. Most of us do not think to send a letter to the election board to let them know that we have moved. No one sends a note to let our old city know that we have moved and are registered to vote in a new place. We complain every four years, but every state continues to use systems that break down and have all sorts of shortcomings.
The same thing is valid for the electoral college. Very few people know how or why the electoral vote was created in the Constitution, but we have kept it for all these years. The party that loses the national election complains for a while, but there is no movement to change it during the four years that follow. What body of the government needs to create a referendum on the electoral college? Would we better served by going to a national democratic vote in which the person who gets the largest number of votes becomes the president?
In his article “Latino Early Voting Numbers In Swing States Are Way Up” Grant Suneson writes, “They (Hispanics) are often underrepresented in polls because English-speaking pollsters have a hard time getting responses from potential voters who speak only Spanish.” I was surprised by that because there are two requirements to become a citizen of this country. They are “the fundamentals of history and of the principles of government of the United States, and the English language, as it is spoken, written and read.”
As someone who has lived in Detroit and Chicago where there are many immigrant communities, we used to joke that the two most ineffective governmental agencies were the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Immigration and Naturalization Office. Inevitably, applications were lost and it was well-known that there were some dishonest people in those two departments. There were people outside who would guarantee your driver’s license because they would translate for you by telling you which answers to pick. So the license exam was taken by the translator, not by the person taking the test because he did not know English or the signs of the road.
In the Immigration and Naturalization Department that were a few people who accepted bribes. As a pastor in the Chicago area, I always told the people that I took to see an immigration judge that they should never bring a gift (bribe). However, one of my parishioners decided that I did not know what I was talking about. The moment we were seated before the immigration judge, he opened his briefcase and gave her a gift from his country. The judge immediately asked us to leave her office. The only requirements for citizenship are civics and English. Nevertheless, there are people who think they can avoid these requirements.
Dishonesty and broken systems are an ongoing reality when we look at our ballots, our electoral process, and our citizenship requirements. These are things that we should think about during the next four years and work to change, so that we will not complain that they are happening again.