On October 7, 2003, I voted for Peter Miguel Camejo in the Gubernational Recall election, who was the same person I voted for in the 2002 Gubernational election. I was told by many that I “threw away” my vote, as I was told when I voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 Presidential election. Why do I “throw away” my vote on candidates that, in the minds of the public, have no chance of winning an election? Because I thought they were the best candidates for the job.
All this talk of my “throwing away” my vote started me thinking: what is “throwing away” a vote? I mean, what about uninformed voters who cast a vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the election because he was funny in the only debate he chose to participate in, and showed excellent composure and control in Kindergarten Cop, resilience and determination in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and good moral character in Twins? Isn’t that “throwing away” a vote? Don’t get me wrong, I think Schwarzenegger is an excellent actor; there isn’t one Schwarzenegger movie I’ve seen that I disliked. In my personal opinion, though, I feel that an actor without any political experience who turned in his $3,500 and 65-to-100 signatures on the penultimate day of the deadline is not as interested in serving the people as the only candidate who turned in 10,000 signatures on the first day of eligibility, as Camejo did.
I have nothing against informed voters who thought that Schwarzenegger was in line with their thinking, as a moderate guy who came from a difficult background, overcame hardships in his move to America, and had great ideas that would benefit Californians. If you think he’s the best guy for the job based on that criteria, that’s wonderful, and I applaud you in voting your conscience, as I did the same in voting for Camejo.
I also think “throwing away” a vote would be voting for candidates in an election who had formally dropped out of the race. This was the decision that 72,836 Californians made while voting for Arianna Huffington, Peter Uberroth and Bill Simon in the October 7 election. I wouldn’t have anything against those Californians voting for Huffington, Uberroth and Simon as the best candidates for the job if they were actually candidates at the time. Yet I’m still the one who “threw away” my vote by voting for someone who stayed in the running through the end of the Recall process.
I honestly can’t see how I “threw away” my vote by voting for Camejo. I voted for him the same reason that over a million Californians voted for the aforementioned Governator-Elect. We, as Californians, are disenchanted by the corruption of politicians we put in office. For example, look no further than the budget woes California’s Community Colleges are facing. How could Governor Gray Davis relate to community college students when he attended two private universities, Stanford and Colombia? I’m curious if a politician who never attended a public college could understand the opportunities public schools and community colleges present to the people of California. This might be a small issue, but to me, if a governor can’t see that the average Californian is just as important to California’s economy as any corporation, and that alienating those Californians and their families is alienating California’s future and stability, I don’t want that person as my governor. That was the difference in this past election: Camejo and Schwarzenegger championed the average Californian in their speeches and debates while Davis and Bustamante often were visual proponents of corporate entities that Davis has often put ahead of the average Californian’s needs.
The people who truly threw away their votes in this election, though, were the hundreds of thousands of Californians who were registered to vote but chose not to. Although the turnout of this election was much higher than recent elections, there were still between 30 and 40 percent of registered voters who didn’t turnout on October 7. Voter apathy is becoming an epidemic in this state. When registered voters do not participate in an election, their voice is surrendered to other voters who take the initiative to vote. It is not only our right as Americans to cast our vote in an election, it is the loudest voice we citizens have in how our government is run.