by Ronald Sitton
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (April 4) — During Spring Break, I took the pleasure of spending an afternoon shooting assault weapons with old friends. Seeing how I seldom do this anymore, it made an impression on me.
I called Micah, hoping to figure out something to do since I was stuck in procrastination nation doing little but updating Web pages and loading old photos onto “crack-book.” Micah told me he wanted to shoot his M-4 variant, which he recently built with Poguey’s assistance. I haven’t been target shooting in nearly 15 years, but Micah said he could get us on Camp Robinson to shoot.
It’s been over a decade since I have driven around on the base that sits behind Burns Park. Since then, they’ve restricted access to the base, especially since 9-11. I thought it’d be interesting to see it at least, plus I know there’s no better way to catch up with my brothers-by-other-mothers than to engage in one of their favorite hobbies. Continue reading
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Moms carried small children on their hips while the pre-teens looked around in disgust. Elderly women moved ahead to sit down while their husbands kept their place in line. Younger men and women spoke in hushed tones. Though crowded, nobody wanted to leave and miss their chance.
Early Christmas shopping? Nope; the line that stretched around the inside lobby of Laman Library held hundreds of citizens taking the opportunity to vote early as Arkansas’ polls opened Monday, Oct. 20.
I arrived around 11:10 a.m. after purchasing $2.23 gas at the Indian Hills Kroger on John F. Kennedy Boulevard. I thought the gas line was long, but I wasn’t prepared for the line to vote. The last time I practiced early voting, it was an in-and-out affair as very few people took advantage.
That’s not the case this year. Luckily, I kept speaking with a corrections’ officer through the wait, passing the time and being continually amazed at the numbers of people who kept pouring in the doors. I’m sure he said something about the turnout first, maybe along the lines of “This just shows people want a change.” I just remember saying it did my heart good to see so many people wanting to exercise their Constitutional right.
We discussed the issues while moving inch-by-inch, around the outside wall while trying not to disturb the library patrons working on the computers but having no choice but to glance at their computer screens as we moseyed by. A middle-aged woman tried breaking in line. No one said anything to her, but she must have gotten hot under the collar as the stares could’ve sent knives into her back; she finally moved to the end of the line, all the way back across the lobby.
As 11:15 stretched to 12:20 and we’d made it but halfway around the lobby, I decided it’d be a good idea to call work and let them know I might be late. “It shouldn’t take too long. Now that I’m here, I want to make sure I vote,” I told Amy Meeks, the secretary of Arts & Humanities at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. She replied that it was not a problem and she’d let the dean know.
It takes roughly an hour-and-a-half to two hours for the 100-mile drive between North Little Rock and Monticello. I knew I’d be pushing it, but I’d already stood in line this long. Usually, I am not the type to wait in line at a grocery store; I’ll leave the buggy and come back later. The only similar-type lines I’ve ever found worth the wait were for student tickets to the University of Tennessee-University of Arkansas football game in 1998 and for student refund checks while an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. But to vote? I feel this election undoubtedly deserves the same rapt attention as refund checks and football tickets. Continue reading
NORTH LITTLE ROCK (Oct. 23) – Election season, not exactly my favorite time of the year, arrived today with the polls opening for early voting.
Honestly, I’m ready for it to be over. My friend Zac Wright works as campaign spokesman for the Mike Beebe campaign for governor. We’ve promised to catch up after the election so he can meet my wife since he’s now living in Arkansas. It’s been too busy for us to catch up so far; that’s OK. I’d rather talk about something other than politics anyway.
Not that I’m immune to the political season. I already know who I’m voting for in the Congressional midterm elections, and I’ve gone out of my way to be prepared for the gubernatorial election. I wrote an article on the first Independent candidate to make the Arkansas ballot since 1940. I personally watched the first debate between Rod Bryan and Green Party candidate Jim Lendall. I skipped my favorite TV shows to watch the third debate between Democrat Mike Beebe and Republican Asa Hutchinson, and the last debate between Bryan and Lendall on AETN. I’ve researched my ballot about as much as I can, and I’ve listened to the crazy attacks on television ads as we inch closer to the Nov. 7 election.
I realize most people think we live in a democracy, when it’s actually a republic. You only get a democratic vote in state and local elections such as these. If you choose to waste the privileges of citizenship, you shouldn’t bitch when things don’t turn out as planned.
I know I’m going to be out of town teaching in Monticello on Election Day, so I decided to vote early. Compared to my first time, everything can be found online before you even vote.
I’d seen information about it the night before on KARK Channel 4 news, so I went to its Web site to see what I could find. Sure enough, there’s the story on “Early Voting Starts Monday,” which contained a link to the Pulaski County Election Commission.
At the PCEC site, I first decided to see what the ballot would look like. The link to “See Your Election Day Ballot” took me to the Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk’s Web site, which asked for my name and date of birth. After I typed it in, the following screen shows my voter ID number, when I last voted, my name, date of birth, address, polling place, school district, school zone, city limit, city ward, Congressional district, judicial district, district court, state representative, state senator, jp district, precinct split and political party. You can also find similar information at the Secretary of State’s “Voter View” Web site.
I clicked on the red ballot box and a pdf file appeared with the “Official Ballot General Election” information and a big red SAMPLE stamp diagonally crossing the page. Though I knew of most issues on the ballot, I didn’t realize everything I’m able to vote for or against this election. I’m happy I can take a few minutes more to look at everything before going to the polls.
In this election, I get to vote for a U.S. Congressman, state positions comprising governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, attorney general, state land commissioner and state representative; county positions comprising the county judge, county sheriff and circuit county clerk; a “constable hill township?”, city alderman and ordinance to require one-fourth of the 1 percent sales and use tax to be used for financing capital improvements; a butt-load of unopposed candidates; Referred Question No. 1 (aka Act 1), which would use bonds to help higher education; and a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow charity bingo and raffles. I printed a copy just so I could take a closer look without the text breaking up as I scrolled down the screen.
So I went back to the PCEC site and clicked on “Early Voting Information,” which brought up another pdf file. I found out I could go to the Pulaski County Courthouse in downtown Little Rock, or just hop down to Laman Library in North Little Rock. I need some books, so I think the library will be just fine. BTW, for the first time I’ve seen the PCEC site, I’m impressed with the wealth of information that I didn’t even know existed. It’s a good thing I have a local television station, KARK, that’s intent on serving local news.
It takes maybe 10 minutes to drive from my house to the library. About 2:30 p.m., I got out and walked in to vote. I sat down to, once again, give my name and address on a piece of paper that verified I wanted to vote early. I took this paper to a lady who entered my information into a computer. While she entered data, I asked how many people had voted early and was told about 185 — not bad for the first day of voting.
I walked over to the electronic voting machines and listened intently as the poll worker gave instructions on how to operate them. I asked if I could take pictures and she said no. So I asked if I could talk with someone after I voted. Since I’d already reviewed the issues, it took maybe two minutes to go through the four-page ballot, which was backed up on a paper ballot on the left-hand side of the machine.
|Voting Machines at Laman Library|
After I voted, I asked an election official to let me take a picture of the machines for the blog. Since no one stood around the machines, permission was granted. He said the machines are a few years old and they’d had no problem with them at this station so far.
“That’s good,” I replied with a grin.
I left the library, jumped back in the truck and made it back to the house within 15 minutes of leaving. On the way back, I started thinking about some of the craziness within politics, e.g. one of the gubernatorial attack ads called Beebe “dangerously liberal” because he voted to raise taxes. As a witness to Ronald Reagan’s contaminating the word “liberal” in the 1980s, I know what the attackers mean, but thought it’d be interesting to see how degradation transforms a word. In my 1980s Webster’s Dictionary (Second College Edition), the published definitions perplexed me:
- originally suitable for a free man; not restricted
- giving freely; generous
- large or plentiful; ample, abundant; e.g. a liberal reward
- not restricted to the literal meaning, e.g. a liberal interpretation of the Bible
- tolerant of views differing from one’s own; broad-minded
- of democratic and republican forms of government, as distinguished from monarchies and aristorcracies
- favoring reform or progress, as in religion, education; specifically, favoring reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual; progressive
Hmm … I don’t see anything about yellow-bellied carpet-baggin’ tax-lovin’ scum in that definition; there’s not even one word about being a menace to society. Many of those attributes can be found in people educated either academically or through the school of hard knocks. So what’s with a “dangerously liberal” charge?
Realizing my dictionary contains 26-year-old definitions, I continued my quest by visiting m-w.com, home of Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Here I found the following definition:
- a : of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts (liberal education) b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
- a : marked by generosity : OPENHANDED (a liberal giver) b : given or provided in a generous and openhanded way (a liberal meal) c : AMPLE, FULL
- obsolete : lacking moral restraint : LICENTIOUS
- : not literal or strict : LOOSE (a liberal translation)
- : BROAD-MINDED; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
- a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives
Even though some of the definitions changed ever-so-slightly, and an effort has been made to point out the political party affiliation in England, nothing seems vile here. Perhaps I had been mistaken. In the vein of Ronald Reagan, I always thought liberal meant someone who wanted to kill babies and throw money out the window. It’s funny how things can be interpreted and framed.
Just a week or so ago, my mom asked me if I considered myself liberal or conservative. I should have known better than to fall into the black-and-white trap laid before me, but I answered “liberal” in answer to her question. The look on her face was priceless, as she avowed I had been raised in a conservative family. But I realized today that I’d lied to my mother by calling myself “liberal” in a moment of speaking before thinking.
As noted before, I vote on the person. Had you looked over my shoulder today, you would have found I refused to vote on party lines. I take seriously the charge of being an informed voter rather than being a “private person,” as citizens once scoffed when talking of people who fail to take their duties seriously.
I should have named myself “progressive” as I vote for people with long-term solutions to problems facing us. I’m “progressive” in that I realize education is the only thing that will bring Arkansas (flailing and kicking perhaps) into the 21st century. I’m “progressive” in thinking we need to stop arguing about “if” climate change is happening, and instead start discussing what we can do to minimize the effects. I’m “progressive” in believing people should know what they’re voting for before they get to the polls. I’m “progressive” in getting out to vote in a mid-term election rather than sitting on my hands and hoping things will turn out OK.
And if you want to take that as I think people who don’t do these things might be “regressive,” well … a Southerner shall not stoop so low as to call others names. If their actions speak louder than words, I cannot help them.
|Apologies to Zendik — I couldn’t go for the communal groove of the organization, but I dig its bumper sticker. I cut it up so I can keep track of the recent elections I’ve attended.|