Election night must be reclaimed

It feels like the voters’ ownership of elections is slipping away.

There aren’t too many events or competitions where we get to be active participants.

For most of us, we don’t have the skill set required to be a professional football or basketball player. No college was ever interested in signing us for our athletic ability. We can’t sing or dance well enough to draw adoring crowds on Broadway. No concert venue will sell out with our name headlining it. Hollywood doesn’t know who we are.

We appreciate those who ascend to the highest level of providing the masses with entertainment. Those ball players, singers, dancers and actors provide us with a little relief from the work week. Sometimes, diversion is good. And necessary.

But we fully understand that we’re only spectators during those events.

Elections are different. The Super Bowl of politics gives equal playing time to 150 million voters. We’re active participants. We vote on or before Election Day and are glued to a media source to watch or listen to results come in that night. Forget about whether it’s a red wave or trickle. A blue win or loss. The excitement of Election Day is a hallmark of a vibrant, participatory democracy. Voters are the ones bringing the game to an exciting finale.   

That’s our past glory. Things have changed.

Nobody ever used the word “patience” on Election Day until recently. Now, it’s becoming the awful, new norm. Voters are told to have patience for election results, and that it could take an additional day, week or month before we see the final score.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

First, properly prepare. The pandemic supercharged the mail-in ballot option in 2020. The Pew Research Center states that about 75 percent voted in person before Election Day or voted by mail. Sheer volume overwhelmed many unprepared election officials in 2020. But if that option is here to stay and will be widely used, it can’t keep being a surprise to administrators during subsequent elections. We all know the definition of insanity.

Next, impose a hard deadline of Election Day as the day that mail-in ballots must be received by election officials—not postmarked by Election Day and certainly not any days after that. One of the driving forces behind mail-in ballots is the convenience factor. If voting by mail is truly more convenient, nobody needs to wait until the last second to get a ballot in the mail. Citizens can either conveniently vote at their local precinct or conveniently postmark their mail-in ballot in plenty of time for it to arrive by Election Day.    

We will always need the mail-in ballot option for our military stationed overseas, for the elderly, for those traveling, and for other good reasons. All those ballots can be received by Election Day.    

Lastly, follow the Bipartisan Policy Center recommendation that election administrators should be permitted to process early in-person votes and vote-by-mail ballots beginning at least seven days prior to Election Day. Processing means preparing ballots and then running them through tabulators. Tabulating machines can be set to restrict availability of the results of these ballots to anyone, including election administrators, until the close of polls on Election Day.

The work gets done ahead of time. Hard copies of ballots are securely stored using strict chain of custody protocols. The secrecy of the ballot remains intact.

Timely results are important to participants. If the score card is habitually withheld from the ones playing the game—the voters exerting the effort—they may lose interest. Maybe that’s the real and sinister goal of some, to turn citizens into passive spectators instead of active participants.    

Our elections must not devolve into a spectacle. Now is the time to ask your state legislators and election officials what they are doing to ensure that winners and losers will be confidently announced on Nov. 5, 2024.

It’s voters’ game day. We want it back.   

Be like Clete and the boys

There’s a photo collage that draws me in every time I see it.

It’s of my Uncle Clete and his three boys. All are in military uniform. Each in a different one.

Clete, now passed, served in the Air Force. Jim served in the Navy and now lives in Michigan. Darrell was a Marine and resides in Virginia. Bob served in the Army Reserves and now calls Indiana his home.   

Many branches, but one mission—to love and defend our nation.

Some families have a proud tradition of generations joining the same branch of the military and serving. That is so good.

But I love the “same, but different” message that emanates from this photo. All loved their country and served, but each was independent-minded enough to go his own way.

It provides the first teachable moment—think for yourself.

The election season is upon us. No one political party has all the answers. Or, maybe a better way to say it is that political parties try to have too many answers. Very few would be willing to sign their name to all that their party professes on its state platform. The 2022 Iowa Democratic Party Platform has 560 statements of support or opposition to particular issues. That’s a lot of red lines. Republicans are capable of churning out quite a few planks too.

If the average Iowa voter isn’t going to be in full agreement on these hundreds of items, it makes extreme party loyalty unnecessary. Instead, consider what’s most important this election cycle and then determine which candidate is best suited to deliver.

Think. And then vote for individuals who can also think for themselves.    

The collage of Clete and the boys are typical basic training photos. They show confidence and determination. They didn’t have their whole life planned out at the moment. They didn’t need to. All they had to do was the next, right thing. And the next. And the next.

It’s not always easy to do the next, right thing. That’s called courage.

Most have moderate political voices. It can be a little overwhelming to simply hang on to that voice when louder voices attempt to silence it.  But take on cancel culture anyway, and don’t give up on finding reasonable, common-sense solutions to needs. Do it today and the next. And the next.

Have courage. Vote for others who have courage.

Lastly, remember that we’re on the same team.

I put three kids through school who were all active in high school sports. We didn’t always win. On nights when we were getting clobbered, though, I would look at the opposing team and think about how at least some of these kids would likely go on to join the military. Then, they would be on my team. Team USA.

The world seems to spin out of control when the United States doesn’t show leadership or display economic and military strength. Our team needs to win.


Vote for the candidate who will put our country first.  

This election, Clete and the boys don’t expect us to don uniforms in order to love and defend our nation. But let us think for ourselves, be courageous with our beliefs, and put our country first.

And vote for people like that too.

Vote for Trump, despite race, gender and peer pressure

Image by Shutterstock.

There are Trump voters, Biden voters, and undecided voters.

There’s a fourth group of voters, though. They’re people who actually agree with the policies of President Donald Trump but are abandoning their vote for him.  

Race, gender and pressure from family and friends are probably the three biggest reasons why a vote doesn’t match a belief system.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of validated voters from the 2016 election. It reported that 91% of Blacks, who cast a vote, did so for Hillary Clinton. That election was not unusual. The Center found that in the last 40 years, Black voters have solidly supported Democratic contenders.

Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, may believe it’s “a given” that he’ll receive the Black vote. He stated, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t Black.”

Nothing could be more racist than to tell someone that it’s not necessary to do your own thinking.

Since 2016, Black unemployment fell and wages increased. Criminal justice reform became real with The First Step Act. And Opportunity Zones made entrepreneurship more possible for Black Americans. This all happened under the first three years of the Trump administration, before a global pandemic hit.

The Center also found in a recent poll that only 39% of women voters favor the president’s re-election.   

Some have called Trump a misogynist because of past words and actions.  

But there’s plenty of video of Biden and his many inappropriate actions with women. And then there’s the sexual assault allegation by a former aide.

Neither one is a saint.

But during the Trump presidency, female unemployment fell and wages increased. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the child care tax credit. And safety is on the ballot, this year. Trump has received many law enforcement endorsements. Biden never condemned the violence, burning and looting happening in predominately Democratic-run cities, during his own national convention.  

Besides race and gender, there’s the pressure factor from friends and family who value personality over policy.

Although this president has given us too many testy tweets and not enough lofty oratory, he did something more important.

He brought back our nation’s confidence.

We are an exceptional nation, and we don’t need to apologize for it.   

He fortified a military that was becoming vulnerable. Peace is only possible through strength.  

Trump went to work immediately on correcting huge trade deficits with China, Mexico, Canada, and others that hurt the American worker, while other corrupt players became filthy rich. The swamp hates Trump.   

United States taxpayers are no longer expected to foot every bill from every world organization, while other nations don’t do their fair share.

The small business optimism index reached record highs under the Trump administration, because of his regulation-slashing and tax-cutting measures. When small businesses are optimistic, they hire more, pay more, and invest more in their businesses.

And if 401k growth is your thing, consider that the stock market fell when Trump entered the hospital for COVID-19 and rose when he was released. The economy likes Trump.

In the book, “The Help,” 1960’s Black maid, Aibileen, talks with her friend, Minny, about the imaginary lines in our lives—whether it’s about racism or domestic abuse. “I used to believe in em. I don’t anymore. They in our heads…Lot a folks think if you talk back to you husband, you crossed the line. And that justifies punishment. You believe in that line?…Cause that line ain’t there. Except in Leroy’s head. Lines between black and white ain’t there neither. Some folks just made those up, long time ago…You don’t have to get hit by Leroy no more…You are free.”

Plenty of people lay down lines for voting, too.

Maybe nobody has reminded you of this in a long while, but you are free.

Free to vote according to your belief system.  

It’s not the race vote, the gender vote, the household vote, the friend circle vote, or family tree vote.

It’s one person—one vote. Yours.

Study each party’s platform. Make a choice. And don’t let any imaginary lines get in your way.