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felons and independents

"An election is more of abstract non-competitive thing for me anyway. The idea of an election to me is more interesting than the election itself. You see, the act of voting in itself is the defining moment. You know what I mean? But to answer your question Ed, I'm not going to vote. I can't. I'm a convicted felon."

-- Northern Exposure, Season III, "Democracy in America."

I had been looking forward to D.C.'s mayoral election for a while — for several reasons, I really felt like this was the first time in a long time that my vote counted, could make a difference, and would go to create change in an area I cared about.

And then, yesterday, I realized I can't vote.

I've always registered as an Independent. It simply seemed like the right thing to do — to not declare myself affiliated with any one party, willing to vote for whoever was the best candidate. Not that you can't do that and still declare an affiliation (of course you can), but somehow it just seemed like a statement I wanted to make.

And I still think this is the right thing. Without getting too much into the structure of elections and politics, I think people who blindly vote straight-party tickets are morons, and partisan-politics has spun way out of control to the point where citizens are making few informed choices. The machine is being used simply to perpetuate itself.







But being registered as an Independent — or as the District puts it, "No Party" — is a little different when it comes to primaries. And perhaps doubly-so in The District.

Here, because the city is so overwhelmingly Democratic, the primary is the election for all intents and purposes. And, because primaries are open only to members of the party, that means I can't vote.

For some reason, this did not occur to me until recently. And I was struck with an overwhelming sense of disappointment, because I really did want to vote. I love this city and feel like the choice this time around is a significant one. And I feel like the election could go either way, frankly, especially as D.C. elections have a history of ignoring polls.

But I can't vote. In D.C., my "independent" status means I don't vote for Mayor, pragmatically speaking.

I'm not sure what to make of that — it's tough to really complain, because that's how the primary system works and I should have known this.

And, having been here four years ago, when Williams was bumped off the ballot and won as a write-in (in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, I believe), I should have known then also but didn't — which probably means I didn't vote in that primary either but simply wasn't bothered as much.

So I'm not complaining; it is what it is. But it still feels vaguely wrong, somehow comparing "independent" status with the inability to vote for mayor in Washington, D.C.




All Images Copyright 2006 -- Robert Walton