Things That Go Bump On The Ballot
In the spirit of Halloween, our friend Dana Goldberg writes about another scary date coming up on the calendar—the midterm elections on November 6.
It was a dark and stormy night. The wind was howling as the candles in the living room flickered and danced against the white walls of my apartment. I’m cuddled up on my couch in my ridiculously soft TomboyX sleepwear, and I can hear the neighbors laughing as they reminisce about the lack of news on the television and the peaceful feeling running through our country like a marathon runner catching her stride at mile 22. As I sip on a nice cup of tea, I can feel the fall chill in the air as I binge watch the latest season of Wentworth.
Wait…let me go back. It was a dark and cloudless night. I’m in Los Angeles and we haven’t had a good rain in 85 years. My neighbors are arguing about the latest news cycle at a volume level that can be heard from the moon. My nerves are shot and the bottle of bourbon on my counter is almost empty because it’s the only thing that calms me from the constant dinging of the news alerts on my phone. I can’t watch television because I threw it out the window sometime after real-life Nazis were marching in khakis and white polo shirts in North Carolina holding tiki torches from the local hardware store. It’s the end of October and it’s 87 degrees, but hey, at least I still have my summer tan. I’m sure there’s nothing to fear since global warming isn’t real and our oceans aren’t rising and warming at an alarming rate.
Well, that got dark quickly right before Halloween! I’m sorry. It’s not all doom and gloom. I’m sure we have an agency in place that is helping to slow down the effects of global warming and climate change. We do! It’s called the Environmental Protection Agency. Just look at what they’ve done over the last two years. They’ve disbanded the air pollution review panel, repealed methane rules for oil and gas companies, downsized dozens of national park monuments, and have cut the NASA climate-monitoring program. Some of you are thinking, “This doesn’t sound like it’s protecting the environment at all!” You’d be right! But don’t worry, a bill has been introduced that will get rid of the EPA altogether. Wait…WHAT?!
I know it sounds like I’m making some of this stuff up. How could it possibly be real? It is. The Congress, as it stands now, would like to get rid of the one agency that is set up to protect the environment. It’s insanity. Others are thinking, “What can we do to help stop this from happening?” You can burn sage and have a séance invoking the souls of politicians who use to put country before party. You can send thoughts and prayers (because that works so well instead of sensible gun legislation), or if you don’t feel like investing in an Ouiji board…you can vote. When? November 6, 2018. This midterm election has turned into the most important election of our lifetime. If you think the “Sexy Handmaid’s Tale” costumes for Halloween this year are scary (yes, that’s a real thing), just wait until you see some of the legislation on the midterm ballots and already on the floor in Congress. They will make your skin crawl.
If your skin is already crawling and you plan to go to Planned Parenthood since you can’t afford healthcare anymore or you happen to be a transgender person and that’s one of the only places that will respect your gender identity and give you proper medical attention…you should probably go immediately. Congress has also introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Not to mention they're trying to narrowly redefine gender to attack our trans brothers and sisters—WHERE IS THAT BOURBON?!
Okay, let’s put this into perspective. The chances of Planned Parenthood actually getting defunded are about as good as me sleeping with a man. I mean, it COULD happen, but chances are super slim. Like really really slim. Like “maybe the Arizona Cardinals will win the SuperBowl this year” slim. The thought of these things is scary to a lot of us. Not necessarily because we want to have a baby or don’t want to have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, but because we don’t want the government telling women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. I’m starting to think those sexy Handmaid's Halloween costumes were designed by men. Oh, who are we kidding, we know they were.
There are some good things happening in the political world. Take Florida for example. Now hold on, stay with me on this one. Sometimes good things happen in Florida. There is an Amendment on the midterm ballot that would reinstate voting rights for felons who have served their time with the exception of murder or sexual assault. Which I think is fair, if you kill someone and they can no longer vote, I don’t think you should ever be allowed to either. This Amendment, however, is actually a very big deal.
Based on the Sentencing Project’s 2016 estimates, this would benefit more than a million people. The organization estimated in 2016 that nearly 1.5 million people in Florida have completed felony sentences but can’t vote. That’s about 9.2 percent of the voting-age population in Florida. The total, though, includes some people convicted of murder and felony sex offenses, so not every one of those people would benefit under Amendment 4.
Black people, who are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated, would stand to benefit the most. In 2016, more than 418,000 black people out of a black voting-age population of more than 2.3 million, or 17.9 percent of potential black voters in Florida, had finished sentences but couldn’t vote due to a felony record.
The amendment is officially supported by Floridians for a Fair Democracy, which gathered more than 1.1 million petitions to put it on the ballot. It has received bipartisan endorsements from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Partners. That wasn’t a typo, the Koch Brothers might finally do some good in the world. If this were to pass, it could turn Florida blue and impact every Presidential election moving forward.
I wanted to make sure I threw in some positive news because things are about to get scarier. Did you know slavery is on the ballot in Colorado? For those of you in Colorado reading this after you have taken advantage of the newly legalized marijuana, you heard me right. Slavery. A bill has been introduced to strip the language from the state Constitution that allows for slavery and involuntary servitude for committing a crime. For those of you keeping up on your history, that little loophole was actually put into the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution when slavery was abolished but the south didn’t want to lose their free labor.
This amendment is a very positive thing. However, my concern is that the vote is being put to the American public, and I feel like maybe some of our citizens have made some poor voting decisions over the last couple of years. I’m not naming any names. I do believe the majority of people in the country think slavery is bad (I can’t believe I actually have to write that sentence in 2018), so I have faith the amendment will pass. Some things just shouldn’t be up for public vote. LGBT rights, slavery, whether pineapple is a good pizza topping (it is so don’t @ me).
So as Halloween approaches this year, light your jack-o’-lanterns and enjoy the kids trick or treating. Just remember you can’t hand out candy bars with nuts, things with gluten, anything with trans fats, nothing with red number 5, or anything made with animal products. You should just hand out air and wishes this Halloween. Some of us think Halloween is the scariest day of the year, but it’s not. Not this year. This year the scariest day of the year is November 6th. If you don’t get out and vote, there is some very scary legislation that could pass or fail depending on which ghosts and goblins make it to the polls.
Congress is starting to become a real-life reenactment of the walking dead. We need a change in this country and the only way that change is going to happen is if we get out and vote. Also, if I see anyone in a Sexy Handmaid’s Costume, I’m stealing your candy. If you were actually a Handmaid, you wouldn’t be allowed to experience any joy, and let’s be honest…candy is joy.
Dana Goldberg is a nationally touring stand-up comedian and brand ambassador for TomboyX. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @dgcomedy