There’s an anecdote, possibly fictitious, about voting in Texas. Lyndon Johnson lost his first race for congress and heard that his opponent had put dead people on the rolls. When the next election rolled around, “Landslide” Lyndon figured there was no reason that dead Democrats shouldn’t be able to vote as well.
Johnson and a couple of his campaign workers went out to a cemetery the night before the election – so the story goes – and copied names off of tombstones and registered them to vote. One of the tombstones was particularly old, covered in ivy and the name – a long Polish one – was almost worn off by time. After struggling to decipher it, one of Johnson’s men gave up and said he was going on to the next one.
“You’ve got to figure it out,” Johnson is supposed to have turned around and yelled. “That man has as much right to vote as any body out here.”
If you’re alive enough to read this, you have more of a right to vote here than dead Texans do – contrary to what certain special interests in Santa Barbara County might think. Some north county politicians and groups like Concerned Taxpayers, Inc. protest loudly that UCSB students shouldn’t be allowed to vote, saying that they’re “transients, that they don’t live in this town long enough to vote. As vile as the idea of not letting people vote where they live is, these guys might have a point – except the point they’re making doesn’t jib with reality.
The average time it takes a UCSB undergraduate to earn a degree is a little over four years, and many students hang around after they graduate. This doesn’t set them apart from everyone else, since approximately 77,000 – or 60 percent – of the people who live in Santa Barbara County have been here for five years or less. Even if you subtract UCSB’s 17,000 undergrads, that still leaves about 60,000 people who are equally “transient.”
Plus, UCSB students have a lot at stake in any local election. Local politics effect how the laws are enforced (particularly this year, when a new sheriff is being chosen), if the streets get paved, and almost everything else pertaining to the quality of our lives. Not only should we be allowed to vote, it’s incumbent upon us to do so.
Besides, it’s not like anyone has to decipher your name off of a crumbling tombstone. All you have to do is care enough to make it to the polling place.