Given the ongoing efforts of Republicans to establish stringent voter ID laws to eradicate a fraudulent voting problem — a problem that even the laws’ supporters have been unable to find evidence for, beyond knowing that sometimes black people vote — I was primed to pay a little more attention when my Virginia voter-identification card arrived in the mail this week.
Should I choose not to bring the card with me Nov. 6, the Virginia State Board of Elections helpfully points out other options for me to prove my identity, including a ”Valid Virginia Driver’s License or ID Card” or a ”Valid Employee ID Card Containing a Photograph.”
Or, in a pinch, a ”Concealed Handgun Permit.” Note that, unlike a driver’s license or employee ID, there’s no requirement for your permit to be ”valid.” Of course, when you’re packing a pistol in the back of your pants, poll workers are probably going to be inclined to take your word for it.
Since I don’t feel the need to arm myself when heading to the local elementary school to cast my vote, I’ll just take along my voter ID card. The point is, I’ll be there to vote — and I’m upset to hear that some others may not be joining me.
Last week, as I was giving a ride to a friend from an appointment he had with an immigration lawyer, he said, ”Some of my friends told me they’re not going to vote, they don’t think Obama’s done enough.”
Seriously, there are gay people in the world who will look in the face of a gay, undocumented friend who’s struggling to find a way to stay in this country legally and say, ”Eh, I can’t be bothered.” Facing a choice between a candidate who wants undocumented Americans to ”self deport” and a president who supports the DREAM Act, some LGBT people shrug. Facing a choice between a candidate who supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and a president who supports marriage equality and calls for the repeal of DOMA, some gay people would rather plan their social calendar than find their polling place.
Obviously, this is the sort of thing that infuriates me. Yes, on some level it’s personal, because it’s a callous slap in the face to a good friend who should be able to count on support from his own community. The outcome of this election will have a real and lasting impact on his dream of becoming a full citizen in the country he grew up and came out in — and on the dreams of thousands of others, LGBT and straight. The outcome of this election will not only determine the course of marriage equality, but also whether we’ll be able to maintain what little gains we’ve made on transgender issues.
Just because President Obama didn’t personally present you with a pony sometime during the past four years is no reason to turn your back on others who have a stake in the election. Believing your vote doesn’t matter because you live in D.C. is just an excuse; deciding not to vote when you live in Virginia is just an affront. (And this goes for LGBT Republicans as well; I may not agree with you, but you have just as much responsibility and right to vote as everyone else.)
Choosing not to vote — and flaunting that choice in front of a person who has far more to lose in this election than you ever will — is a selfish and small act. You have a total of 364 other days in 2012 to focus on your fabulous self; you can take part of the day on Nov. 6 to get out and vote. Who knows? If in a few years we find ourselves more equal as LGBT people, you may even discover there actually was something in it for you after all.