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I’m a registered voter in Pennsylvania, one of the numerous states whose Republican Governors have proposed laws to require voters to present “State Approved Identification” in order to cast a vote in upcoming elections. On the surface, these sound like common sense laws. In reality, they are bureaucratic nightmares. These laws are solutions to problems that do not exist. But that’s not what this post is about.
During last November’s general election, the courts had put a stay on Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law. They found that there wasn’t enough time to provide proper ID to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who didn’t have it. The lines at the PA DMV were so long that people were being turned away. It was decided that voters would be asked for ID, but it would not be required to vote. Poll workers were also instructed to ensure that each voter’s ID correctly matched what was on record, and to advise the voter to rectify it before the next election. There were leaflets and everything.
I didn’t think this would be an issue for me. I had my ID. So, with ego properly inflated, I confidently marched up to polling place and proudly presented my driver’s license.
The woman behind the table carefully examined my driver’s license, expelled a sigh, and looked up into my smiling face. “It appears we have a problem,” she said. “The way your name is printed on your driver’s license does not match the way it is printed on our records.”
Apparently, my middle name is spelled out on my driver’s license, but my voter’s registration shows only an initial. My registration also shows a “Sr” after my name, as in Frank Senior. This is ostensibly a problem because I don’t have a son named Frank Jr..
NOTE: Other than my address, the information on my voter’s registration has not changed in almost three decades.
After voting, I thanked the nice woman and promised I would fill out a new registration form with the correct information. All was well with the world.
Being the procrastinator that I am, I filled out the new registration form at the end of March. There were a myriad of reasons why I waited. There always are. Three weeks later my new voter’s registration arrived by mail.
The new registration is printed exactly the same as my old one, with the exact same errors. What gives? How difficult is it to copy information from a piece of paper? How hard is it to check the information found on my driver’s license, and enter it into a database? Wasn’t that the reason I was asked to provide them with my license number?
I contacted the Election Commission and spoke to a very patient gentleman who was as puzzled as I was. He accessed my driver’s license information to verify my identity. He looked at a scanned image of my new application, which had the correct information. and couldn’t understand why the records hadn’t been updated. After a few questions, I was told that my new registration should arrive within a week.
It took almost four weeks for the new voter registration to arrive, just in time for Pennsylvania’s Primary Election. This time, my last name was altered.
I have an Italian last name with a “De” prefix, as in DeNiro, DeLuca, or DeAngelo. Pennsylvania driver’s licenses use all capital letters, and the De is not separated from the rest of the surname. On the new voter’s registration however, the prefix IS separated. You wouldn’t think this was an issue. Apparently, the poll workers thought it was enough of an issue that it needed to be addressed. I was told that I could be turned away because of that simple technicality. REALLY??
Now I have to contact the Election Commission AGAIN, and walk them through the correct spelling of my name.
Does anyone else see the problem, here?
I vote every election. I take it very seriously. It’s about more than just selecting a new Mayor, Judge, Senator, or President. There are ballot questions and referendums. The voting booth is one of the few places in which my opinion matters. In the words of “because campaigns have been drilling it into our heads reasons why we should or should not vote for a particular candidate. But I will be voting because voting = power, and I cannot sit back while decisions are made around/about me, and I have no input.”I don’t vote
I also don’t want some inattentive paper pusher’s mistake to prevent me from casting my vote.
How can they ask for proper ID if they’re not going to ensure that the information they record is correct? Why must I jump through hoops if a bureaucrat can’t get it right?
If we can’t ensure that everyone can easily obtain the proper ID required to cast a vote, then we need to stand down on aggressive laws designed to make it virtually impossible to engage in our Federal Voting Right.
Speaking of constitutional rights…
I threw that last thought in there as an expression of my angst.
Seriously though… If anyone, regardless of criminal background, can order an assault weapon online without proper identification, why should my middle initial, or the prefix of my ethnic surname cause so much trouble at the polling place? #smh
PS: The point of this rant is simple. I’m surviving on minimal resources. If I’m having trouble meeting the requirements for “State Approved Identification”, what about the people who don’t even have what I have?
With all their talk of Family Values, you’d think Conservatives would embrace green energy.
If for no other reason than their children’s future.
Shortly after President Obama was elected, 501(c) (4) applications started to pour into the IRS by the thousands from anti-government Tea Party groups. Those of you with a short memory might not remember the negative reaction to the economic stimulus and those big business bail outs that saved the auto industry. By 2010, as healthcare reform legislation became law, and the U.S. Supreme Court deemed corporations are people too, the number of 501(c) (4) applications increased.
According to Michael Scherer of Time.com, “many of these so-called social-welfare groups have multiplied—annual applications for the designation have nearly doubled since 2009—with many spending nearly 50% of their money on campaign advertising, almost daring the IRS to challenge their activities. Of the more than $1.2 billion spent by outside groups in the 2012 federal election cycle, at least $254 million came from “social welfare” nonprofits.”
To me, this is a red flag!
“All this outrage threatens to obscure an important point: the IRS does need to crack down on political groups masquerading as social-welfare organizations. Many of the nonprofit groups who claim 501(c)(4) status either flout tax law or flirt with the murky line between electioneering and issue advocacy, all while using their tax-exempt status to conceal their donors.” - Alex Altman “The Real IRS Scandal” time.com
The IRS may have been overzealous, but there’s certainly no scandal here.
Crime Scene? Dreamstime
On April 22, Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old public school student in Bartow, Florida did what any kid with an ounce of curiosity does: She performed an experiment. Like many acts of science, however, it didn’t go as planned.
Wilmot allegedly mixed a few household chemicals in an eight-ounce water bottle, capped the lid, set it down, and stood back to watch, according to local news reports. She expected a little smoke to appear. Instead the top blew off and made a firecracker-like bang.
No one was hurt. No property was damaged. She didn’t even run away. The principal’s eyewitness account, along with those of Wilmot’s friends and schoolmates, all suggest she was simply satisfying her curiosity on school property before classes began. “She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did,” Bartow High School principal Ron Pritchard told 9news.com.
Despite praising Wilmot as a “good kid” who has “never been in trouble before,” Polk County Public Schools trumpeted its zero-tolerance policies and called the police. They arrested Wilmot and charged her with two felonies. Now expelled, Wilmot may be forced to finish her education in a juvenile facility and graduate with a permanent record.
A big part of the problem here is fear. Schools have allowed it to guide student codes of conduct that ignore what science is, how it works, and the importance of experimentation in inspiring influential researchers. I’m specifically reminded of a piece called “Don’t Try This At Home” by Steve Silberman, who reported on the increasing criminalization of garage chemistry.
The story ran seven years ago this month but is still surprisingly relevant. Silberman explores how and why chemistry kits and education became so toothless. As part of his reporting, he highlights prodigious scientists who owe their success to foolish childhood experimentation. Gordon Moore, who pioneered the integrated circuit and co-founded Intel, for example, created and detonated his own dynamite at age 11. David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard and father of Silicon Valley, proudly manufactured gunpowder as a kid. (Thomas Edison should have been in there, too — he performed enough dangerous feats to fill his biographies.)
Other brainiacs regale us on the importance of backyard chemistry in leading to fruitful science careers, including neurologist Oliver Sacks, Don “Mr. Wizard” Herbert, Popular Science’s own Theodore Gray, and Roald Hoffmann, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in chemistry. “There’s no question that stinks and bangs and crystals and colors are what drew kids … to science,” says Hoffmann in Silberman’s story. “Now the potential for stinks and bangs has been legislated out.”
Silberman convincingly argues that fear of lawsuits (by manufacturers and teachers alike) have led U.S. educators to shy away from teaching science that poses any degree of danger. Schools have codified those fears in zero-tolerance policies that reject context and reason in delivering punishment. Suddenly, a popping soda bottle that hurts no one becomes a life-threatening explosive device.
Did Wilmot make a mistake? Yes. Should she carry two felonious charges into her adult life? No.
Kids are kids. Their futures ride on trying, failing, and learning from mistakes. Much of that happens during personal experimentation, and schools should equip them to do it responsibly, whether or not it happens on school property.
Sure, dangerous behaviors deserve punishment. But it’s time we stop creating and acting on zero-tolerance school policies to dole them out. We need to treat kids as kids and give them a fair shake by weighing context, reason, and maturity — not brand them as criminals when they create “stinks and bangs,” either accidentally or intentionally, for experimentation’s sake.
What the hell is wrong with America? We should be encouraging students who show an interest in science and math, especially young women.