Random Asides

My Head Exploded

A few short minutes ago, my head exploded all over my fellow voters.

I’m still gluing the fragments of my skull back together, and stuffing whatever brains I could find back in. Fortunately, a nice lady at the polling place helped me collect all the chunks and pieces, and she wrapped them in an old newspaper for me. Without her help, I probably wouldn’t have made it. (It’s surprisingly difficult to focus on the clean-up tasks after your head explodes.)

The cause of it all?

There was just too much for me to make an informed decision about every candidate and every race and issue being contested. And when I encounter something complex, I tend to get explody.

Don’t get wrong. The front of the ballot was easy. It had all the big races on it; president, senators, congressmen. You know, the ones we pay attention to. I mean, we’ve been force-fed this election for the last two years, so I knew those candidates. I was in no danger of suffering any head trauma yet.

But before long I got to the smaller, more obscure races, and that’s when the cranial tremors began. Trying to process all the names and offices was impossible. I don’t know if anyone was watching, but I read the ballot, trying to maintain an informed look that said, “Hmmm . . . Yeah, this is not the first time I’ve heard of these people”.

“Perhaps Chester Handy would make a fine Commissioner in Precinct 3,” my contemplative face said.

But in my mind I was thinking, “What the hell’s a comptroller? What does a County School Trustee do exactly? Is Railroad Commissioner really a position we need to vote on? What’s the difference between a District Clerk and a County Clerk? How do you pronounce Ahmad Hussamassaouwan?”

At that point, alarm bells began to sound in my mind. My head was throbbing. It felt like a soda can that had been shaken up; just a nudge and brains would come spewing out of my ears. Then I turned the ballot to the page with all the local referendums and city and county propositions, and I got that nudge.

“Oh no! Four pages of referendums?!?!”

“Wait . . .vote Yes to do away with the old sewage treatment plan, or Yes to accept the new one?”

“Proposition G funnels sales tax on cigarettes into road repair and highway maintenance? So I want to vote for it? No against it? No for it? But Referendum 42 restructures commerce funding, doesn’t it? What if I vote Yes for both of them? And wasn’t there a Bond issue for that a couple pages ago?”

Yes on Prop 17 will create a fund for a new county court house? But Yes on Prop 76 will move the county seat to a city on the north side?!?!”



Sorry for the mess.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. /me nods.

    There were lots and lots of questions on the ballot that I had to leave empty.

    An uninformed vote is worse than no vote at all.

  2. Here in Memphis, the election commission makes the ballot available online about three weeks before the election. It doesn’t prevent painful cranial expansion, but it gives you three weeks to let the pressure out slowly.

  3. Wow, my ballot was very dull. My only choices were for President, Senator and Representative. And the Representative was running unopposed (so I had to do a write-in). Still, you can look these things up ahead of time. At least, you can everywhere I have lived.

    Good luck with the head thing, Sam. Maybe try ice?

    I am a Hedge

  4. We only had three ballot initiatives: whether or not to end state income tax (um no), whether or not to ban greyhound racing (yah), and whether or not to decriminalize pot (eff yeah mofo). So it was a quick one for me.

    Plus, er, you know you can look these things up before you go vote, right?

  5. Nothing wrong with a little silliness, Sam. Almost all the Monty Python sketches I like are full of it.

    My sister and I are both registered to vote early, so we get the ballots well ahead of time. I spent a night all over the internet to get as much information as I could at every level.

    Then I went to my sister’s house to help her figure it all out.

    …And felt like an idiot because I had forgotten we live in different districts. Almost all her candidates, bond issues, etc. were different ones that I had never heard of. I wasn’t much help.

  6. 1) Do away with income tax was a YES vote.
    2) Make the race track betters do the racing for a change.
    3) eff yeah mofo

    1) Disagree with you on #1 on the thought that my kids school sucks and shifting the burden from income tax distributed at a state level to property tax distributed at the local level would rock my world.

    I think it is up to the voter to care enough to know before voting day what the topic is. Thats just my opinion..

  7. I took the time to do a bit of research all the state propositions beforehand, but I didn’t even know there would be more local measures to vote on. So I skip ’em.

    On our ballot, there were two renewable energy propositions, which I would tentatively support. But upon a bit of research, I found that all the major environmentalist organizations disapproved. If I hadn’t researched, I might have been part of the Stupid Voters constituency. This is why I don’t feel comfortable voting on things unless I know about them before seeing the ballot.

  8. Yeah, that is why I do early voting via absentee ballot.
    In Maine, you can get one without needing a reason, and they are all counted.
    So, it is much simpler to sit in front of the laptop and search on the people running for County Charter Commision (and what the heck it is anyway).

    Try it next time.

  9. @Ken Hahn:

    You know, I actually went downtown to an early voting place last week. I wasn’t voting. I was taking care of some unrelated business. But I was amazed at how many people were already voting. It was busier than my polling place today.

  10. A while back I came up with an idea to help resolve our biggest flaw in the election process:

    Idiots who don’t know what they’re voting for. See, most people who vote are, indeed, idiots in some way or another. Most are the run-of-the-mill kind who are just plain stupid and the source of our daily entertainment/shock. But many, like us, are simply idiots on a few specific matters (yes, yes, ignorant would be more technically accurate, but I sure feel like an idiot at those head-explody moments you described). And since people who stand in front of a polling device feel the need to vote on everything (I resisted today and actually skipped a couple of items I knew I had no place answering), we get people who vote based on the person’s name, political affiliation, current job description, last billboard they saw on the way in, who their pastor/minister/rabbi/father/brother/neighbor told them to, etc. So, my impossible (because it relies on a RELIABLE and TRUSTWORTHY electronic voting system) solution is:

    Each position, measure, proposition, etc. (see, I don’t even know what half of them are called) comes with three short, simple, multiple-choice questions that need to be answered before you can vote on them.

    For positions, simple questions about what the heck the office does (what does the chair of the water commission actually control?), or for higher positions, simple questions about each candidate’s published position on a well-publicized subject. For propositions and such, simple questions on what action will be caused if the item goes into law would do nicely to see if my reading comprehension skills are sharp today.

    And I’ll make it even simpler: You need answer only TWO of the three questions correctly in order to be able to vote on the subject. Hell, I’ll make it easier and give you only TWO multiple choice answers for each question! 50/50 odds on two out of three questions ain’t bad.

    Get two or more wrong, move on to the next ballot item. You’re not disqualified from the whole thing, you merely can’t vote on the subject you’re clearly uneducated on. Even with the lax rules, can you imagine how many of us idiots this would prevent from voting on subjects we have no place voting on?

    Of course as long as I’m dreaming of places where this functions, I might as well dream of a world where people are actively educated on these subjects and care enough to vote responsibly on every matter. But do I really WANT to know what a comptroller is? Really and truly?

  11. I was lucky enough to spend a weekend afternoon a while back doing research and debating with two very fine and educated young men.

    So I knew which way I wanted to vote and was ale to avoid big goy messes of head goop on the floor.

    I think talking about your research with friends is one of my favorite parts of the whole process anyway :)

  12. @Kaylia_Marie: My wife and I did that this time, which was surprisingly helpful. We have rather opposite viewpoints on most political issues, so it produces some interesting results. This time, though, we agreed on most of the important issues which was refreshing, and managed to give each other some rather convincing arguments on a few others.

  13. Sounds like you made the same mistake I make nearly every year – paying way too much attention to the national races, and too little to the local races. We’re all victims of the misleading media in this respect.
    This year I had figured out everything except 6 of the 15 or so judges. Damn school board candidates made it hard though – one seemed to have had his web page designed to repeat the phrase ‘WORLD CLASS’ (in all caps) as many times as grammatically feasible. The other also said nothing substantive, except for one vague and debatably positive reference to NCLB.

  14. wytworm “Disagree with you on #1 on the thought that my kids school sucks and shifting the burden from income tax distributed at a state level to property tax distributed at the local level would rock my world. ”

    Here in California we pay income tax and sales tax AND our schools are supported by local property tax. Many of our schools still suck. Oh well.

  15. The State College ballot was easy: two major races (President and Congressman), two local races, and two initiatives.

    The two local races were cake because two of the three candidates for each position were either unqualified or nonexistent.

    The two initiatives were just as simple: $400,000,000 for sewer and water system repairs across the Commonwealth (projected at $20 billion to replace) and whether to allow local offices more than two terms. I’m no political expert, but I don’t see “King for Life of State College” as a good thing.

  16. I used to get overwhelmed by all the things to vote for on a ballot. If it’s an option where you live, I highly recommend voting absentee. Washington state is now something on the order of 90% absentee voters. There are only a couple of counties where they still have open polling locations on election day. The major advantage of voting absentee is that you get your ballot in the mail a few weeks before the election, along with a voters’ pamphlet that has detailed explanations (and in most cases, full text) of all of the initiatives and ballot measures, statements for and against, statements from all of the candidates, etc. You can sit in the comfort of your own home and make the important decisions, and look things up online if you don’t think there’s enough info in the pamphlet. It really takes the stress out of voting.

  17. @JSug: I’m just going to say this one more time, the absentee ballots for Harris county, Texas did not include any referendums. They included instructions on how to get a ballot in Vietnamese, but no referendums. Also, in most states you can’t just vote absentee because you feel like it. You have to be disabled or not in residence.

  18. Okay, for those of you who didn’t get it:

    Yes, I know you can see the ballot ahead of time. Yes, I know the information is available online and in other places.

    The post was meant to be a humorous commentary on the number of decisions a voter may have to make at the polls. That’s all.

    A joke doesn’t require analysis. It only requires laughter. Or perhaps an “Oh yeah. I’ve been there,” type response, or even a groan, if it’s bad enough.

    But as I’ve said before, if you have to explain ’em, they don’t go in the act.

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