#709: Vote Like a Champ in Just Six Steps

November 7th, 2016

Voting is like improv comedy: The fact you’re unprepared is only amusing to you.

For the rest of us, those who take more than one stab at existence and who tire of any activity with a cover and two-drink minimum to watch state school theater majors laugh harder at their own jokes than the audience ever will, we like to be a little more prepared.

So in the vein of my Bare Minimum Voting Guide from the primary, a six-step plan that will get you voting like a champ in no time. *

1. Register to vote — yes, you still can

Although a legal battle funded by the conservative Illinois Policy Institute tried to take it away from us, same-day and Election Day registration still exists in Illinois.

This means if you’re reading this before 7 p.m. Monday, grab two forms of ID (one of which shows your current address) and haul ass to an early voting location to register and vote in one fell swoop. Here’s a list of acceptable ID and here’s a list of early voting locations. Go! Run!

Even if you don’t make it today, you can still register and vote on Election Day. This is important. Anyone telling you or implying otherwise is lying to keep you and your vote away from the polls.

To register to vote on Election Day, find out where your polling place would be using this link right here that I’m padding out with extra text so it’s easier to click on if you’re reading this on a phone hi Mom lorem ipsum dolor sit amet blah blah blah the link should be big enough to click on now even if you have big stubby sausage fingers blah.

Then take those two forms of ID (one of which shows your current address), go there between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. tomorrow and vote.

2. Plan your day

I’ve got to give it up to the vice president of my heart, Joe Biden, for this reminder on why it’s so important to have a plan detailing where to go, when to go and how to get there. (Sorry, vice president from 1949 to 1953 Alben W. Barkley. You had your chance.)

Given that everyone in this city wants to give a big ol’ slap of civics to the face of a certain cantaloupe-hued hobgoblin, lines are going to be long. As the New York Times recently illustrated in a surprisingly horrifying video game, long lines are a weapon in the battle to suppress your vote.

Plan ahead so your vote doesn’t get suppressed. Plan ahead so no one can use your disorganization to suppress someone else’s vote.

To figure out where to go, go to this link right here that I’m still padding out to be easier to select if you’re reading on a phone because this is probably the most important link in this story, type in your info, click search, find your name off the list that will pop up, click that and then you’ve got everything you need. Location, address, even a little Google Map showing directions from your house.

To figure out when, that’s up to your schedule. I’m voting before work (6 a.m. line outside a North Ave. photo studio — whoo civics!), but if you can’t make it then with kids and such, guess what? Your employer is legally obligated to give you up to two hours off, paid, to vote.

I’m not saying they will. I would be very surprised if every manager and supervisor in the city of Chicago was aware of Illinois election law, but if you tell them by the end of work today and they don’t give you the time off tomorrow, they’re breaking the law.

Any person entitled to vote at a general or special election or at any election at which propositions are submitted to a popular vote in this State, shall, on the day of such election, be entitled to absent himself from any services or employment in which he is then engaged or employed, for a period of 2 hours between the time of opening and closing the polls; and such voter shall not because of so absenting himself be liable to any penalty; Provided, however, that application for such leave of absence shall be made prior to the day of election.

You can find the law at this link right here. Do a search for “10 ILCS 5/17-15″

[EDIT: As xkcd reminded me to remind you, if you're in line when the polls close, they have to let you vote.]

3. Get your cheat sheet

Democracy is an open-book test. Of course you can write down your list of candidates you prefer. All those judges and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioners tend to blur together.

To find out what candidates are on your ballot, go to that big link I keep padding out blah blah blah, type in your info, select your name for the list and select the tab that says “Sample Ballot.” Click on the link and a window of boring-looking referendums, competent politicians, Trump and infinite judicial candidates will pop up.

There you go. That’s you. That’s the ballot you yourself you you you will see, not the ballot your neighbor who is in the same Senate district but in a different judicial subcircuit or state representative district will see.

This leads us to the next step.

4. Learn what the hell you’re talking about

You know that machine you use to post on Facebook that you don’t understand politics?

Use it to understand politics.

Google. Type in names. I know you’ve got a phone, tablet or computer — you’re using it right now to read me rant about civics and how annoying I find improv comedy. Use it for something better.

As I wrote before the primary, “Only read reputable sources, ones you’ve heard of before. If you Google candidate Jane Gomez and the top two results are a Chicago Tribune editorial and JaneGomezKillsJobs.com, go with the Trib. The last one has a political opponent’s purse strings behind it.”

[EDIT: Don't trust something just because it looks like a newspaper either, as Wednesday's story illustrated.]

Find out which judicial candidates are dedicated public servants and which one is facing criminal charges and had her law license suspended because she and a judge friend decided it would be a hoot if she put on the judge robes and started ruling on traffic tickets even though she was just the clerk.

Her name is Rhonda Crawford. She’s facing a Class 3 felony charge, a Class A misdemeanor, had her license suspended and she is going to win the race because everyone is too busy complaining online about how the media ignores important stories to read any of the hundreds written about her.

She won a primary during all this. We flip our collective lid over non-email non-investigations on the national level but we’re so uneducated on local issues someone won a primary while under criminal investigation.

Two people did.

5. Oh god the judges

Yes, there are a lot of judges on the ballot. And since every candidate this year ran as a Democrat, they all knocked out their opponents in the primary. They’re all running unopposed so are going to win no matter what you do.

[EDIT: There are races in Cook County's 12th and 13th judicial subcircuits, but they're in the suburbs so I'm not counting them. Masthead don't say "1,001 Palatine Township Afternoons."]

Not knowing how to vote for judges is what got us in this mess. So learn this now, remember it next primary when you can again have a say.

Every election, local bar associations (groups of lawyers) rate all the judicial candidates based not on their politics but on how good they are or will be at being judges. Who cares if they support gay marriage if they’re ruling on DUIs? What the hell does their opinion on a flat tax matter if they’re deciding if you or the ex get your kids?

You want judges to be fair, impartial, intelligent, knowledgeable of the law and, guess what folks, there are tons of ways to find out if that’s the case.

I like the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening’s ratings list because it’s made up of the recommendations of a lot of smaller bar groups, but the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Council of Lawyers go into a lot of detail on the good and bad of the candidates.

They’re all at VoteForJudges.org, so look around. Comparison shop.

Someday you could be in a room where one of these people is deciding your fate. You can’t choose what they decide, but you can pick people who might be good at the job.

6. Other stuff

Don’t vote for Trump, that referendum about road money is bull, do your “I voted!” Facebook brags if ya wanna but they don’t really impress me and voting has and always will suck.

Yeah, it sucks. I want sleep, not a 5:30 a.m. arrival at a North Ave. photo studio.

But we don’t do it because it’s fun. We do it because it’s the bare minimum for participation in society, as vital to our civic hygiene as bathing is to our personal hygiene.

Vote. And don’t show up unprepared, trying to improv your way through the election.

The prep needed for a modern election is simple, free and available using the device you’re reading this sentence on.

If you don’t take the 40 minutes needed to prep for this race, you’ve joined improv comedians and people who never bathe as the last chumps I want to be stuck with in that line tomorrow morning.

How Illinois Democrats gerrymander

How Illinois Republicans suppress votes

Watching polls in the primary

The Bare Minimum Voter Guide

With all this trouble, why vote at all?

* Because there’s, like, literally no time. The election’s tomorrow. Go!

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