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In search of a silver ballot

Kimberley Burkart | Wednesday, November 1, 2006

If you’ve watched any television at all during the past month, then you know that Chris Chocola spends part of each summer setting fire to illegal aliens as they attempt to cross the border.

You also know that Joe Donnelly robbed Native Americans of their land back in 1872 and, in his spare time, slashes the tires of those scooters senior citizens drive around Wal-Mart.

So, which one deserves to win public office?

As students in South Bend, most of us come from someplace else and don’t actually have to vote for either of those candidates. Good thing, too, because if you’re the kind of person who takes campaign ads seriously, you know that South Bend voters can only go wrong.

If I were a South Bend voter, I’d walk in to the polling booth as though I’d never heard anything either politician has had to say, just to have some fun in this lose-lose situation. People who analyze this sort of thing say that name recognition is key to the outcome of any election, so it’s reasonable to ascertain that I’d vote for Chris Chocola. The name sounds like a delicious, carbonated, chocolate-flavored beverage, bottled by a company with Christian sympathies. What more does a politician need?

I did vote in this election for real, while I was home for fall break. I filed an absentee ballot in the city clerk’s office. It was my first time voting and I think I did a good job, considering that in general ballots are not nearly as simple as the ACT. In this case, voting required me to connect two halves of an arrow in such a way that put me in the mind of those little mazes that used to appear on Happy Meal bags – the ones where you trace one of three impossibly entangled lines to figure out whether Hamburglar should connect with the milkshake or the French fries.

In that particular election, a man named Jim Doyle is running against a man named Mark Green. Unfortunately, Mark Green has an apparent, if coincidental, advantage on this ballot, especially with voters who get all their information from T.V. ads and know only that both men are Satanist cannibals. You see, Mark Green is not only the name of a politician, but also an imperative sentence in which Mark is the verb and Green is the direct object of Mark (the subject of the sentence is the implied “you.”) Mark Green comes across on the ballot as active and energetic, a real go-getter whose very name orders people to vote for him, while Jim Doyle floats just above him in passive ambiguity – an accurate analogy of how Doyle has spent his term in office, but one that is out of place.

Surprisingly enough, this might not be all good news for Mr. Green. Directly below him on the ballot is the name Nelson Eisman, candidate for none other than the Green party. I suppose that’s why the ballot engineers didn’t make Mark Green change his name for the election. It could just as easily work for him as against him.

Examples of this kind of thing run rampant across the country. There’s a state representative in Ohio who won his eighth term in 2004. His name is John Boehner. Here is a man who owes a lot to what I call The Snicker Factor. I mean, what otherwise uninformed voter wouldn’t vote for a man named Boehner? (I won’t even go into what his opponents’ ads must be like.)

I will leave you with one last philosophical observation on this subject. On the ballot in my home state, the individual can vote yes or no to a proposed amendment to the state Constitution. The amendment would prevent gay marriage in that state. The catch? Gay marriage is not allowed in that state. Therefore, a vote for the amendment prevents gay marriage. A vote against it also prevents gay marriage.

Now, the first time I heard that only 30 percent of Americans vote, I was thunderstruck. I couldn’t conceive of any situation in which people just wouldn’t exercise their civic duty. But that was before I found out that civic duty involves standing in line for hours at the city clerk’s office, only to decide whether to vote against or against gay marriage.

Happy voting.

Kimberley Burkart is a sophomore English major at Saint Mary’s College. She can be contacted at kburka01@saintmarys.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.