I’ll start by saying this: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Republican. But I’m not a Democrat, either.
Rather, I’m an independent. Now, I don’t mean I’m a member of the Independence Party, which gave us such esteemed statesmen as Jesse “The Body” Ventura, and certainly not the Alaskan Independence Party, which advocates seceding from the union to become our own country — who wants to deal with currency exchange? And what if they put up a border wall right outside the terminal at Sea-Tac? We’d all be stuck with no Qdoba.
My independence is spelled with a lowercase i, as in no affiliation one way or another. In fact, I don’t identify myself as anything other than human, and I’m sure I’d drop that, too, if we ever get taken over by robots or something. I mean, I’d vote for a robot — I voted for Al Gore in 2000, didn’t I?
You see, when it comes to partisan warfare, I’m a registered non-combatant, like Switzerland, except without the yodeling (okay, maybe a little yodeling). Indeed, I come from a long line of independent voters, on both sides of my family, ever since we got off the boat from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century. Before that, we didn’t have much choice.
And so I forward no particular agenda and endorse no specific candidate or cause when I say voting is our most important right, both as Americans and Alaskans — even more than the right to shoot wolves from a fixed-wing airplane.
Not just this election cycle, but every election cycle, at every level of government, voting lets you express your opinion in a meaningful and lasting way, as opposed to, say, every 20 minutes or so all crammed into 280 characters. If I may, Twitter reminds me of an old college freshman ritual called “The Scream,” when, at 11 p.m. each night during finals week, we’d all open our dorm windows and, well, scream. To me, that’s what tweeting is, except the screaming continues all day, every day, from every corner of the digital universe.
Now, where was I? Right, voting.
When I was a kid, I loved accompanying my parents to their official polling place. My sister and I would pull the voting booth curtains and flick the ballot machine switches, and if we seemed especially intrigued, cute and/or destructive, we could usually cadge a donut off the election volunteers.
Naturally, I couldn’t wait to become electorally active, myself, which I have been since the tender age of 18. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan — you never forget your first.
But in New York, only party members can vote in party primaries. Until I moved to Alaska, I’d never experienced an “open” primary (I’d only seen it in magazines). I’d never taken part in a caucus, either, although I definitely fantasized about it. Come on, who hasn’t?
Point is, I’m a man who loves to exercise his franchise. No matter the size of the election, I’ll use any opportunity to get my vote on.
And this year stands to be especially satisfying. Obviously, there’s the upcoming gubernatorial contest. And of course, this November, our seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is up for grabs, as are seats in the state Senate and state House or Representatives, not to mention Alaska Ballot Measure 1, Salmon Habitat Protections and Permits Initiative. Now, again, prior to Alaska, I wasn’t really into whole ballot measure thing, but by now I’m starting to feel comfortable, like I can finally let loose and enjoy myself instead of being all nervous about whether I’m doing it right.
Whew! Is it getting warm in here?
There’s more. Did you know Juneau has its own separate election day? That’s right, municipal elections are coming right up, Tuesday, Oct. 2 (better start stretching). But if you’re like me, and crave instant gratification, early voting started this past week at City Hall and in the Mendenhall Mall. I just checked the sample ballot, and the lineup is killer: Mayor, Areawide Assembly, District 1 Assembly, District 2 Assembly — you heard me, that’s District 1 AND 2, not 1 OR 2. Oh, and let’s not forget about the school board … we get to pick three!
Mm-mm, that sounds like some hot voting action. You have to be crazy to miss out on it. Well, crazy or dead, and even the dead sometimes vote, like for instance via absentee ballot in August’s House District 15 primary in Anchorage. Now that’s what I call dedication to civic duty.
So come on, people. What are you waiting for? Vote your brains out!
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday.