I vote in every election because …

wrote 200 letters (with hunter’s help) for the Vote Forward campaign and mailed them today to voters in Texas, Alaska, and South Carolina. pretty simple: write a letter to a voter who, by some algorithm, was found to be unlikely to vote. they provide a little template and some blank spots to sign the letter and write in a little bit about why you, the letter writer, vote.

I’ve found it to be meditative, and a positive place to put my anxiety during the lead-up to the election, but also a very curious practice connecting to 200 strangers throughout the country. what would make this particular person vote? I would wonder. what could I possibly say to them that would encourage them to vote, if they’re thinking that they won’t? and why *do* I vote, anyway? how do I narrow that down into two or three sentences?

I ended up writing things like: I believe participating in the process to choose our elected officials is an important way to ensure democracy. I want a say in who makes laws that affect all of us. I care about climate change, health care, and education, and I want to make sure those in government care about it, too. I want to ensure that the people in government know what we, the voters and citizens, care about. I believe voting is an important part of my job as a citizen.

I don’t know if this will encourage any of the folks that I wrote to, but I found myself a little surprised at the answers.

I’m so curious about *why* we vote and why we don’t, and what would inspire more of us to do so. I remember hearing that in australia, voter registration and attendance at a polling booth have been mandatory since the 1920s, and their voter turnout is around 91%; australians can be fined up to nearly $80 AU if they fail to vote. but why would voting not be mandatory? I know: politics. but. things don’t have to stay the same; change is possible.

I know there are many things this country could do to help voter turnout long before voting is made mandatory — we could, for example, not actively try to disenfranchise and prevent people from voting, for example, which seems to consistently be happening through all the elections I remember paying attention to. voting day could be a holiday. we could have more polling places so people wouldn’t have to wait in hours-long lines.

a TED talk I watched the other night talked about the joy of voting, and the question of what we, as a culture, make of voting. is it a cool thing to do? is there social pressure? there certainly is in my circles, but I am in a bubble inside of counterculture radical justice communities — I don’t think I really see the mainstream.

right now, I’m mostly just asking the questions. being curious. open.

preparing 200 letters felt useful, and I’m thrilled to be part of a campaign that sent 16.8 million letters today. between this and also seeing all the news about early voting coming in, I’m feeling hopeful, actually. haven’t felt that way in a long time, maybe not since march.

I might do some text banking next … I also filled out a form to work the polls day of, I’ve never done that, but I never heard anything so I’m unclear if I’ll do that. we’ll see.

what are y’all doing in the next 17 days before november 3 to support people voting? what’s your plan to vote yourself?

Does Volunteering Make You Feel Better? PS: Ready to Vote?

I’ve been really inspired by what Ethan Nichtern has been doing in his social media lately; he’s posting a lot about strategy for getting through election season. I knew him when I lived in New York City — he ran the Buddhist sangha I belonged to there. 
 
My main take-away has been that he’s saying the more you volunteer for the election, to encourage voter turn-out or just for anything, the less anxiety you’ll feel about the election. honestly, I’m not sure I believe that — but I figured, let’s try it and see. 
 
He turned me on to Vote Fwd — a letter-writing campaign encouraging people to vote. I’ve done about 100 letters so far and I’m hoping to get another 100 done before all the letters are mailed on the 17th of October. Their goal was 10 million letters, and so far they have 9.8 million, so they’re expanding the goal. Pretty incredible! According to Vote Fwd: “In a randomized controlled trial in the special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama in 2017, turnout among letter recipients was 3.9 percentage points higher than turnout in the control group. (3.4 percentage points after controlling for gender, age, and other factors). This is big! It appears to be one of the most effective known tactics to boost turnout.”
it’s easy to sign up and adopt voters, and Ethan & his crew are holding letter-writing parties on Sundays if you want to do it with some other people around. I will root you on too!
I also signed up to volunteer to be a poll worker, though I haven’t heard anything about that yet.
Are you writing letters? Are you volunteering in some other way? Ethan has been talking about switching to phone and text banking in the weeks closer to the election, and though I’ve never done that, I might see what the options are. 

PS: You’re ready to vote, right?

I like this ACLU checklist and have been working through mine. I just re-registered in a new state, so I still have to do a bit of research on the local races.

I’m Voting Biden/Harris, But I Still Want A Dyke For President

Am I excited about voting for Kamala Harris and Joe Biden? No.

Am I going to vote for Kamala Harris and Joe Biden? Abso-fucking-lutely. Of course.

Am I excited there is a Black woman as the democratic vice president nominee? Yes! I’m excited about anybody who isn’t a cis white man. That we are starting to have possibilities, options, is fantastic and I absolutely want to see more of it and I’m excited about it.

But: Kamala Harris was a police officer. I, like many folks in the past year or so, have been learning more and more about the movement to abolish police entirely, and I’m in support of that. There are many arguments about whether more strict regulating or defunding would be steps toward abolition, and some say no, that we’ve been regulating for years and it hasn’t changed the amount of killings of innocent (particularly Black) people and police brutality. And at a time like this, when the Movement for Black Lives is stronger and more active than it ever has been, I am kind of shocked Biden chose someone with a such a police history. Then again, of course he did — he’s a moderate, centrist democrat and perhaps radicals will still vote for her because of her radicalness (being a Black woman), but more conservative folks will still vote because of her police history.

Kamala Harris also had a serious hand in SESTA/FOSTA, and if you don’t know what that did for sex work and freely distributing information about sexuality in general, definitely look into it. Her history as a DA is intense and generally bad. There are many criticisms — what I’ve mentioned here is by no way exhaustive, not that I’m trying to be. Point is: there is reason to critique her.

Either way, I was going to vote for the democratic nominee. I’m not necessarily excited about it … I don’t particularly believe that the nominees for president in this country are ever going to represent my actual beliefs and values.

I want a dyke for president. (Image text by Zoe Leonard, transcribed below.)

Still, I’ve voted in every election that I have been able to since I was 18. I do believe it’s important.

I was talking to rife today about my frustration with the state of the world — particularly the US, but corporate greed and profit over people over the earth are everywhere, not just here. I feel angry, disappointed, and helpless — which can and does sometimes turn to apathy. I’ve heard many of my friends talk about how actually volunteering for a local election or doing work on a presidential campaign has helped them feel like their anger has somewhere to go, so I’ve definitely been thinking about that part, too — how to turn the anger and frustration outward into action rather than inward into hopelessness and apathy.

I’m curious how you all out there are doing. Are you eligible to vote? If so, are you planning to vote? Did you vote in the 2016 election? If not (and assuming you were eligible), why didn’t you? Are you disappointed that Bernie or Warren didn’t get the nomination this time around?

And perhaps most importantly: What kind of activism are you doing? How have you funneled your rage, apathy, frustration, give-up-ness into something productive?

I write about voting and politics on here sometimes, sure, but I’m not a journalist and so it’s more rare to write about ‘current events’ type of happenings. I tend to assume that everybody is seeing a lot of the same media I’m seeing, because we’re all in a similar queer feminist liberal urban bubble of media — though I know that’s not true. Internet algorithms change what everybody sees extensively. I mean, have you been saying the same things I’ve been seeing this week — the extensive essays about why Kamala Harris sucks, but the resolve to vote for her anyway? The feelings of disappointment, and the barbed wire around being allowed to feel our feelings of disappointment, asking folks not to please jump on them about feeling bad because of course we will vote blue? And the smattering of folks who are saying, simply, ‘hurrah, a Black woman’? That’s what my news feeds and timelines are all full of.

I’m thinking about how I can use Sugarbutch in the coming months, if there is anything I can actually do to support getting Biden/Harris elected. I can write about it more, I can share my thoughts as we get closer … which isn’t my favorite thing to do, because it veers close to journalism, which doesn’t excite me. But how can I use the platform AND come up with something exciting? Not sure yet, but I’m thinking about it. If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them.


Text of the above image:

“I want a dyke for president. I want a person with AIDS for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia. I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to AIDS, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying. I want a president with no air-conditioning, a president who has stood in line at the clinic, at the DMV, at the welfare office, and has been unemployed and laid off and sexually harassed and gaybashed and deported. I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape. I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them. I want a Black woman for president. I want someone with bad teeth and an attitude, someone who has eaten that nasty hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy. I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn’t possible. I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown. Always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker. Always a liar, always a thief, and never caught.” ― Zoe Leonard