Release the ballots
August 15, 2009
I loved “All in the Family.” Norman Lear’s post-1960s sitcom changed the face of television. First to use comedy as a platform for addressing “off-limits” social issues; politics was always an undercurrent. In 1970 this kind of TV was new, and it was also good.
Well-acted by the late Carroll O’Connor as the WWII veteran and bigot Archie, Jean Stapleton as his wife and the family’s moral center Edith, Sally Struthers as Gloria the college-age daughter married to Michael Stivic, the strident, progressive, hippie son-in-law. The cast exploited the generation gap and the intense social unrest of the time to humorously shed light on previously taboo subjects.
It was television at its zenith.
My favorite episode was “The Election Story.” Aired in 1971 during the show’s second season, it centers on a local election between incumbent conservative Floyd Lundy – Archie’s candidate – and progressive challenger Claire Packer, the choice of Michael and Gloria. Edith’s choice remains unknown. After much debate and discussion the entire family trundles down to the election precinct to vote. In a moment of subtle irony, poll volunteer Louise Jefferson, the Bunker’s African-American neighbor (played by the late Isabel Sanford), informs Archie that since he has not voted in 11 years he is no longer registered and therefore ineligible to vote.
Archie, desiring to offset his daughter and son-in-law’s votes for Ms. Packer even after surrendering his personal voting right, attempts to influence Edith’s vote. Invoking her right to a secret ballot, Edith resists Archie’s manipulation and escapes to vote her conscience.
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In the show’s final scene the family prepares to watch the election returns on television. The conversation turns to the Lundy-Packer race, and Gloria goads her father, saying, “Aren’t you glad you voted, Daddy? Wouldn’t it be a shame if Claire Packer won by one vote?” To which, in a restrained demonstration of spousal independence, Edith chimes in “or two …,” disclosing after the fact that she chose Claire Packer over Archie’s candidate.
What Edith understood and Archie did not is that while voting is a right, fought and died for, protecting the integrity of our voting systems is a duty. Those who seek to ensure that all votes are counted according to the voter’s conscience should never be disparaged by those who seek our vote.
Unfortunately Aspen appears to have a City Council of Archies rather than Ediths, and they have so disparaged Harvie Branscomb and Marilyn Marks. In doing so they belittle all who seek free and fair elections. The secret ballot guarantees free citizens the opportunity to enter the voting booth liberated of obstructive influence. It is entirely unrelated to the shallow and contrived argument that post-election ballot disclosure somehow violates a voter’s right to confidentiality.
Aspen’s election process is in doubt. Denying access to the May election ballots is a barrier to truth, not a protection of voters’ rights. The integrity of Aspen’s voting system requires that they be released now.