Voting is a precious right, and we need to encourage the people of Bloomington to vote. This is especially important in city elections, where turnout is pathetically low. The #1 vote getter in the at-large city council race in 2011 got fewer than 4000 votes, which is a sad number in a city of 70,000 people. The parking meters discourage early voting by making it an annoyance to park downtown to vote, and the meters discourage voting on Election Day for any precincts that are in the downtown area.
This is why I am calling on the city to suspend parking fees for people who are voting early and on Election Day. City government should work with county government to develop a system where everyone who goes to vote should be exempt from paying to park downtown – even something as simple as a little slip of paper confirming that someone has come downtown to vote.
This is more important this year than in other years, because so few people vote in city elections. The closer government is to the people, the more every individual vote matters. City government may not get the headlines the national and state governments do, but it is city government that most people interact with on a daily basis. We drive on city streets, depend on city fire protection, are protected by city police and are governed by city planning codes. City elections should have a higher turnout than the presidential election, not drastically lower.
This may not be an illegal poll tax, but it does place an unnecessary barrier in front of people who simply want to participate in democracy. No one should ever have to pay a tax or a fee to cast a ballot. This is especially important for those who may be struggling financially and have to count every dollar. Let’s not freeze these people out of the voting process. We should enthusiastically welcome all eligible voters, and remove this barrier to voting.