Le w00t! Here in America, the presidential election is around the corner and things are mighty fierce. There’s drama, passion, fire and a whole lotta talky talkin’. But who to vote for? Well, here at Black Witch, all the info about all candidates, Democrat, Republican and Independent as well as voting info for your area. It is very important that regardless of who you’re voting for, you’re very well informed so you may make the right choice. No one should simply vote for their party, they should vote for what’s right for the country, whatever that may be. And Black Witch is not officially endorsing anyone, I’m an Independent!

Now, let’s look at the history of voting first and the pro/cons of each method, this vid is quite funky…eh you have to watch on the site, sorry about that folks. It’s called the “Brief History of Voting”. I’ll have a version posted to the BW Tumblr.

Now that’s out of the way, I posted that because as a Black blog, it would be really incredibly stupid for me to make the assumption that things in this election are being played fair and square. There’s a whole vibrant history this country has about voter suppression and we’ve got to counter-act that as much as possible so everyone who wants to vote and can vote may do so on November 6. That’s why the next two The Arts will be about voting and making sure you’re aware of all your options and no matter what, make sure you have your voter card in hand. Let me tell you a story:

When I was a wee young lass back in high school, they passed out voter registration forms in my African-American Studies class. Everyone in school was supposed to have one passed out to them by then end of the day, regardless if they choose to fill it out or not. I filled mine out annnnnnnd, nothin happened. For months. I filled out another voter’s registration form at the local NAACP. Nuffin. I filled out another one at a local college. Nada. It wasn’t until I went down to the main voter registration center of Baltimore City a couple days after my birthday to straighten it out and all of a sudden the woman working the desk said that I was registered since ’06 but it was awful odd how I never got my official card until that day. See, I was ready to go over the desk and give my “I’m Black, I’m Educated and I’m Gonna VOTE. I will channel my inner Rosa Parks, man” monologue, maybe knock over a cup of pencils, but the lady completely understood. She was Black herself and gave me a look that said, “I wonder how many folks are like her and still don’t know?” She wished me a happy belated birthday, gave me my card and I have had it in my wallet since.

I shared that story because I’m just one of many, many people who have registered to vote and didn’t hear back from anyone. My card said that I registered Oct ’06 but I never got a card in hand until July ’08, just months before the presidential election. That means I waited nearly two years to get my card and that itself didn’t happen until I went to the Registration & Records office in my city.

It is very important to have that card in hand when you vote because otherwise, they will try to discount your vote and trust me, every vote counts so let’s start with showing you how.

There are several sites to aid you in registering to vote. There’s:

Rock the Vote
Vote 411

So register and check! Don’t get caught up like me, okies?

Here is how the US Voting System (should) work, thanks to the BBC:

The United States holds elections every two years. Once every four years there is a presidential election, with congressional elections held at the same time.

Mid-term elections take place in-between presidential elections, in the middle of the presidential term.

Elections for the House of Representatives are held every two years. Senators have six-year terms, with one-third elected every two years.

State governors serve four-year terms with about half up for election every two years.

Voters also get to choose their party’s candidate in the main election. Voters register which party they support, and can then participate in primary elections.

Before he became the Republican candidate for president in 2000, George W Bush had to beat Republican Senator John McCain in primary elections.

Primaries are sometimes quite close to the general election, and once they are over, candidates must turn quickly to the general election.

Now we all know that it simply isn’t that easy here in America, nope. We’ve got quite a history when it comes to Voters Rights, the effect of the Electoral College and things like that so let’s get into it.

Voters’ Rights
This is our right to vote. Every American citizen over the age of 18 should have it in theory but it wasn’t always that way. When the country first started, only White men over the age of 21 and owned property were considered capable of voting. It took decades, centuries actually, to turn the tide and let women and minorities as well as those who did not own property to be let in. The Civil War made it so that the average White guy could vote but Blacks couldn’t vote until the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870 (and we all know it didn’t really end there), women couldn’t vote until 1920 with ratification of the 19th Amendment, and the voting age was dropped to 18 due to the 27th Amendment, ratified in 1971. If only problems were this easy to solve, though. Again, this is a Black blog so I am going to include this: The country didn’t really get its act together on justifying whether Blacks such as myself ought to really vote until the Civil Rights Movement and they couldn’t bs us anymore (Jim Crow still had some sodium in his system about us getting the fair right to go to the polls). Not saying these folks don’t still make attempts to, they just have that pesky writing that basically translate to, “Okay, knock off the literary tests, property ownerships and poll taxes. And no one needs to guess how many jellybeans are in a jar to determine if they’re fit to decide who should run the nation next,” that stands in their way. And here is where we talk about Voter ID Laws and why you need to know about them.

Voter ID Laws
Y’know how the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made it so you wouldn’t have to jump through loops just to vote? Voter IDs are those loops, just redefined as “Happy Patriotic Circles of Exercise and Happiness” if you asked the folks who back them.

Voter ID Laws are to stave off voter fraud, something that has happened a very small number of times. According to a New York Times analysis from 2007 found through ProPublica, only 120 identified cases over the past five years, according to the Justice Department. Most of these cases came from erroneously filled registration forms or misunderstandings regarding voter eligibility. 86 convictions came from that but usually when election fraud happens, it’s not from the people but the election officials who want to swing the results or wonky absentee ballots, which voter ID laws can’t help anyways.

These laws come in the form of presenting some sort of identification such as a birth certificate, bill of some sort (electric bill, gas bill, etc), a photo id or something that basically let officials know that the person before them is indeed who they are. This marginalizes the elderly, minorities and low-income groups because they are the ones that are usually lacking information such as this and this information is just like guessing how many jellybeans are in a jar: Absolutely no determination of whether or not the person is fit to vote, it’s just an additional and unnecessary obstacle to separate potential voters from the polls. There are variations of strict and non-strict voter id laws and this site will let you know how with a handy map and easy to read charts. Rock the Vote also has something on Overseas/Military voting, Felons Rights and Student Rights, something affected by these laws.

These laws are important to note, as well as our voter rights as a whole because it affects our electoral college, what really determines who wins the election.

Electoral College
America has a two tier election system, and it especially comes up in the media around the presidential election. What basically happens is the popular vote fuels the electoral college, which determines the outcome so a candidate can win the popular vote but still lose the election because they lost the electoral and vice versa. What happens is the popular vote is summed up by districts and representatives so a tiny district with a lot of people will probably have a lot less pull than a bigger district with not a lot of people in it. The Idiots Guide of voting explains it effortlessly:

Every state (and the District of Columbia) has a number of electoral college members equal to the number of representatives and senators in that state. There is a minimum of 3 members, in states such as Alaska and Montana, and a maximum of 54 members in California. Securing a majority of 270 electoral votes (out of a possible 538) ensures that the candidate will go on to the White House. Therefore, a candidate can actually become president by winning the electoral contest but losing the popular vote—which is what cost Grover Cleveland the 1888 election, and more recently resulted in George W. Bush becoming president in 2000.

The electoral college was originally created to keep the vote in the hands of the people and downplay partisan politics. Ironically, modern critics find the winner-take-all approach of the electoral college unfair because it takes the vote out of the hands of people and may fail to reflect the popular national will by unfairly skewing the importance of individual votes in certain states. The electoral votes are won wholly, county-by-county then state-by-state, regardless of whether a majority is decided by one vote or one million votes. This process has resulted in extremely close presidential races in the election years of 2000, 2004, and 2008.

And that’s how the Electoral College is le done!

Who’s Running?
Alright, now, we’ve got all this out of the way, you’re informed! Now on to the candidates vying for your vote! Just wanna let the world (well, the American readers) know that there are various sites to help you make that choice as well. I’m just going to list who is running and the sites to help inform you below to keep it all simple.

Now, here are the US Presidential Election Candidates, nabbin the info from Politics1!

Democratic Party: Barack Obama (Pres)/Joe Biden (Vice Pres)

Republican Party: Mitt Romney (Pres)/Paul Ryan (Vice Pres)

America’s Party/American Independent Party: Tom Hoefling (Pres)/J.D. Ellis (Vice Pres)

American Third Position Party: Merlin Miller (Pres)/ Harry Bertram (Vice Pres)

Constitution Party: Virgil Goode (Pres)/Jim Clymer (Vice Pres)

Green Party: Jill Stein (Pres)/Cheri Honkala (Vice Pres)

Justice Party: Rocky Anderson (Pres)/Luiz Rodriguez (Vice Pres)

Libertarian Party: Gary Johnson (Pres)/Jim Gray (Vice Pres)

Objectivist Party: Tom Stevens (Pres)/Alden Link (Vice Pres)

Party of Socialism and Liberation: Will not be listed on Black Witch due to not meeting constitutional qualifications to serve as president/vice president

Peace and Freedom Party: Rosanne Barr (Pres)/Cindy Sheehan (Vice Pres)

Prohibition Party: Lowell Fellure (Pres)/Toby Davis (Vice Pres)

Reform Party: Andre Barnett (Pres)/Ken Cross (Vice Pres)

Socialist Party/Liberty Union Party: Stewart Alexander (Pres)/Alejandro Mendoza (Vice Pres)

Socialist Equality Party: Jerome White (Pres)/Phyllis Scherrer (Vice Pres)

Socialist Workers Party: James Harris (Pres)/Maura DeLuca (Vice Pres)

Oi! That’s a lot of people! You can click on their names to go to their websites and check ’em out but here are some sites to help you decide as well:

Vote Smart: They have coverage and information for both presidential and congressional elections so it’s a one-stop shop with a great site that is informative and interactive! Read about the various candidates listed above, their stances on various subjects and most of all take the Vote Easy test! This test is pretty rad as it asks your opinion in 13 subjects from Abortion to Social Security and will determine which candidate best match you and your beliefs. It’s super cool! Try it out!

Presidential Candidates: This site is okay, but informative. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of Vote Smart and sometimes a little confusing to navigate but what is really useful is their issues section on the side which list from Abortion to Trade Issues as they outline what the issue is and what various candidates feel about it. Also there’s a Profiles section that tells you the information of the candidates such as their age, their ancestry, military service, books, siblings, things like that. Definitely worth a look.

And that’s that! Remember to check out Vote411 to know where your polling place is and get informed! If I missed anything, lemme know in the comments and we’ll touch on it next month.

Next week is Ask Black Witch, submit your questions! Check out the Contact Me page or submit to the Ask Black Witch submission page, link is on the side. See you next week, or at the Baltimore Book Festival!