Here in Ohio our usual May primary election has been jerked up to March for the primary (haha) purpose of making the state a factor in the Republican presidential primary. I would be offended, but for the fact I’ve done some rule gerrymandering myself, in my day.
In a household where you didn’t declare your politics or the length of your pocketbook, I was nevertheless thrown into political analysis in the Kennedy/Nixon campaign. Like many teenagers short of 21, John F. Kennedy would have received my vote. That might have been the end of political awareness for me, except my Dad said, “If he’s elected, I guarantee soldiers with guns will be marching in the street within two weeks.” The dinner table discussion lasted all through the fall. When I deemed myself and my candidate the peaceful winner in November, dad smiled like a Cheshire cat and sprung the truth on me on November 11th, when soldiers with guns did march in the streets.
Four years later I was old enough to vote, and knew Nixon could never have my vote. Hubert Humphrey did. Four appalling years later, I took the democrat ballot at the primary and cast a vote for Eugene McCarthy. Tilting at windmills, and it felt good. For the next thirty odd years I didn’t touch those partisan ballots; I voted Independent. It doesn’t get a party ballot in Ohio. It didn’t stop me from being known as a registered Democrat and getting all those phone calls that followed me from Cuyahoga County to Lake County to Summit County. Four or five address changes and two or three phone number changes and they still called me to promote a candidate!
I took a partisan ballot in 2006 when Taft was the outgoing Republican governor and there would be a vigorous race to replace him. I was especially concerned about the Republican primary. One candidate would be Jim Petro, whose work in various elected state offices was solid. His primary opponent was Ken Blackwell, whose stand on individual rights, among others, pretty much petrified me.
It was just common sense to me to help select the best Republican candidate, so I pulled an R ballot in the spring primary, and cast one for Jim Petro. He lost. Fortunately, Strickland, the Democratic candidate, defeated Blackman in November. He put in four good years and was narrowly defeated in the last bi-year election. That R ballot also doubled the phone calls to the house at election time!
In the last presidential primary, 2008, my principles again led me to select a partisan ballot. This time, a D. Hillary needed me. My little precinct had lost most of the workers I had known for the last decade, but I thought nothing of that as I faced the unfamiliar row of election workers and said I would have a Democrat ballot. I was challenged!
A rather young man quite sternly told me I was a registered Republican! and could not take a Democrat ballot. This rather old woman faced him down, along with some obtuse rule about changing affiliation in Ohio. To him and the entire room I announced I was an Independent voter who occasionally found a need to make my primary vote really count. For George McGovern in 1972, for example. In last spring’s primary, to help select the best Republican candidate, for example.
“I don’t need to hear this,” the stern young man cut over me. “Yes you do, young man. I’m here today to make my vote count, and I will do that when you give me a D ballot.”
He withdrew his challenge and gave me the ballot I requested.
If you don’t vote, you don’t count.
John Husted's voting sticker. He's Ohio's Secretary of State. Actually, it's pretty neat.