Voting in the UK

I voted in the UK for the first time yesterday (my mom is British so I have citizenship, fortunate me). Everyone told me how easy it was, and that was not a lie.

First, I went online to register. I entered my National Insurance number (which is basically proof of ability to work based on my citizenship; the number is used on tax forms and things). If you don’t have such a number, they have other questions but you may still be able to vote. Then you enter your address so they can determine your constituency–and here’s the big difference from voting in the US.

Back in the US, a lot of states are making it more difficult to vote, by insisting on photo ID, stripping prisoners of the right to vote, insisting students only register in one district, not permitting temporary addresses, etc. In the UK, the registration site explains how to use the right address if you’re in a hospital or prison, if you’re a student, and even if you’re homeless. If you can’t provide an address at all, you can contact your election office and you may still be able to vote. This is great! This is removing barriers to voting rather than creating them. That’s what we should be doing.

For the actual voting, I went to my polling station, which was literally around the corner from my house, stood in line for 7 minutes, gave my name to an election officer who checked it off a list, took my paper to a booth, and put an X next to the candidate of my choice. Dead simple.

The election may not have gone as I’d hoped, but the process of registering and voting gave me hope for how we might help enfranchise people back in the States.



I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but on the off chance I’m not: If you’re a registered voter in these United States and you don’t want Tea Partiers running our country, please vote today. Here’s a way to look up your polling place. Or just Google “where to vote.”

red, white, and blue button

Even in traditionally blue states -- so get at it!

Digby has a great piece up on why it’s important to vote Democrat this election, even though the Democrats are doing their damnedest to lose all the goodwill and progressive legislation they’ve actually gained in the last two years. Even though the Obama Administration is blocking measures to repeal DADT and carrying on with torture-as-usual established during the Bush Administration. Even though the health care bill fell far short of what it should have been. Even though we remain mired in war. Even though the White House is turning on its lefty allies in a gross misunderstanding of its base and a depressing unwillingness to see how we could all move toward the same goal (it is instead trying to get the nonpartisan vote from the Republicans that it ain’t ever gonna get).

Despite all that, the fact remains that it will be SO MUCH WORSE if the Republicans regain control. With the exception of a very few, they are eagerly pandering to racist, violent Tea Partiers who are literally up in arms about economic reform despite the fact that they are funded almost entirely by corporations with their own interests at play. People have been far too willing to dismiss the Tea Party as a bunch of nutcases, but they are getting the media coverage, they are getting their lies spread, and they are going to get possibly a frightening percentage of the vote.

But even if the Tea Party’s people don’t get all the seats they’re going for, rank and file Republicans aren’t looking much better. They’ve vowed to make “no compromise” in getting rid of the health care bill — which, flawed though it is, is still far better than anything we had before. They will block every progressive measure they can, and essentially they plan to wait til they can take the White House and Senate in 2012 and then seriously screw us over. They are anti-choice, anti-women, anti-people of color, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-working class, anti-middle class, and frankly, anti-all Americans who don’t fit a very specific picture. But they’ve scared enough people who would suffer under more of their policies into thinking they’re going to suffer more under Democratic policies.

The Democrats passed the health care bill.  The Democrats passed a stimulus bill that is slowly making a real difference in regaining jobs lost in the recession. The Democrats at least half-assedly went after the banks who got us into this mess. The Democrats have let science back into the FDA’s decision making, resulting in things like the 5-day emergency contraceptive being approved. The Democrats have (not as often as they should, but fairly often) stood up against Islamophobia in places like Florida and New York. The Democrats are doggedly pursuing the DREAM Act, to open up citizenship to children of immigrants. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made huge gains in worldwide goodwill, and she has presented tough speeches and policies on the importance of women in the global economy, the autonomy of people in every culture, and the primacy of human rights on her watch.

In short, they aren’t perfect, but they are worlds better. Remove the Tea Party element and think of how the rest of the election season is being portrayed and perceived, even from Jon Stewart (damn it): That there isn’t much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. There is, of course, a huge and dangerous difference. Remember the last time the main theme of the election season was “there isn’t much difference, just vote for whoever”? That’s right, it was the presidential race of 2000. And we all know how well that turned out.

George Bush laughing

Don't let history repeat itself