Go vote

Age of the Geek Column: We're in the home stretch now.

The 2018 election is just days away. So go vote.

I don't care if you're annoyed by the constant text messages and commercials. Go vote.

I don't care if you have a political preference or if you're so disillusioned that you think 'both sides are the same.' Go vote.

Vote not just because it's your civic duty, but because your vote matters.

It does, really. Every vote matters. If it didn't, we wouldn't have so many people trying to keep people from voting.

In North Dakota, an abrupt change in voter ID laws has forced thousands of Native Americans into a scramble to update their Tribal IDs in order to participate in this year's election. In Wisconsin, voter ID laws have disenfranchised as many as 23,000 people in the state's two largest counties. In Florida, felons that have served their sentence can only have their voting rights restored by the Governor's appeal board, which allows them to personally select who gets to vote with no criterial but their own whims.

Then there's Georgia, where Secretary of State Brian Kemp, running for governor, has been under fire over his rigid enforcement of registration policies and election laws that, by total coincidence I'm sure, disproportionately affect voters most likely to vote against him.

As though faulty voting machines with no paper ballots and the closure of polling locations weren't sketchy enough, voter registration purges have removed more than 100,000 people from the rolls that last voted in 2008, even if these people have not moved or otherwise lost their right to vote.

While legal, these policies are just a hair away from storing voter registration forms in a dark basement behind a door that says "Beware of Leopard."

These issues are exasperated by the fact that Kemp has whole heartedly resisted pressure to recuse himself from overseeing his own election. Now, to be fair, it would be unreasonable to mandate that auditors at any level should be expected to stop doing their job when running for re-election. It's kind of the nature of the gig.

That said, when it's such a tight race and there are this many controversies, why wouldn't you wash your hands of it? Even if you were totally above board, why give yourself the headache.

Also, it's not a great look when the guy running the election, who is also on the ballot in a tight race, expresses his concerns about people exercising their right to vote when behind closed doors. When a secretary of state laments a spike in voter turnout, that's plenty of reason for concern.

Across the nation, there are states that more closely resemble banana republics than the shining beacon of democracy the United States is supposed to embody.

Iowa, thankfully, is not one of them, but it's not for lack of trying.

Like many Republican controlled states last year, Iowa passed new laws to combat the virtually non-existent problem of voter fraud by enacting a series of new hoops to jump through. Fortunately for Iowa voters, the debatable necessity of such laws aside, the hoops aren't terribly difficult. Registered voters without a valid driver's license are automatically issued a free voting ID, eliminating the poll tax implications of such a policy. And even those without ID will be able to, for this election only, swear an Oath of Identity if they go to the polls without identification.

If we have to have a security blanket to make us feel better about an imaginary problem, Iowa's new laws are relatively benign.

For those that want to get their voting done early, Iowa has among the most flexible absentee voting process in the country. Even if the new law reduced the absentee voting period from 40 days down to 29, that's still better than average nationwide. Twenty other states require a stated reason before being allowed to cast an absentee ballot. Iowa is among the 27 that allows absentee ballots to be cast without asking for a reason.

On the other side of the spectrum, for the procrastinators out there, Iowa is one of 18 states that allow same-day registration. So long as you have proof of residency, you can register at your local polling place and cast a ballot immediately.

To the Iowa legislature's credit, last year's voter ID law even expanded the range of valid forms of proof of residency and ID, including electronic utility bills and Tribal IDs (you hear that, North Dakota).

Which is not to say that the law is without problems. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld an injunction that blocks some of the new rules, particularly one that allows untrained election officials to arbitrarily reject absentee ballots they think don't have matching signatures.

Voter suppression is a problem, but fortunately it has an easy solution. Voting. As paradoxical as it sounds, voter suppression works best when voter turnout is already low. High turnout reduces the effectiveness of the tactic, which in turn means certain political parties will invest less in suppression efforts.

So go vote.*

Rid yourself of the notion that your vote doesn't matter, because it does. No, yours isn't going to be the ballot that tips a close race one way or the other. It doesn't matter. Even if every contest on the ballot is an uncompetitive shutout, your vote still matters just as much. It matters because it's yours. Because it's one more voice added to the tally. Your individual vote may not determine the winner, but it does affect the mandate that winner has. It affects the behavior of the winner when they take office. It all matters.

*Also, please educate yourself about who you're voting for. It's boring and tedious, but it really is important.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and wants to see a lot of "I voted" stickers next week.