DO YOU feel it?
About this time every election cycle comes an irritating gut-gnaw telling you that enough is enough, make it all end and, please, figure out a better way.
I'm here to help.
Yesterday, I surveyed political pros and average voters for ideas on dealing with a flood of ads, mailers and robo calls, and how to make elections easier on the electorate.
Here are the results.
Pittsburgh Republican analyst William J. Green says, "Make Election Day the same day taxes are due. That'll put some focus on being clear-headed when voting."
Practical suggestions from voter "Bob" include shredders inside your front door to dispatch political mailings unopened; "avoid stress-inducing web surfing of political sites - stick with porn"; subscribe to Sirius/XM and press buttons for stations with only music and sports.
Philly Democratic analyst Larry Ceisler, tracked down in San Francisco, where he escaped to attend Phillies playoff games, says, "Block cable TV."
Just imagine. No shrieking. No simple-minded sloganeering.
Ceisler and others also say that ad gurus need to push more levity to engage voters. Good idea. So much of what airs is heavy with twisted facts, attack and vitriol. About the only thing close to engaging I've seen is the Joe Sestak for Senate "Belle" ad featuring his family dog and a bag of poop.
And, yes, it's come to that.
I wonder if technology, key in bringing us so much useless stuff, can come to our defense.
How about a TV-install that automatically rejects political ads, replacing them with screen-saver-type scenes of seaside serenity with soothing Bach music? Or a phone function that replaces political messages with celebrity voices of your choice (George Clooney? Penelope Cruz?) telling you how awesome you are.
Voter "Fran" says, "Elections should be held on weekends or over a couple of days" - which gets us to more serious suggestions.
The season would be easier if Pennsylvania was dragged into the current century in terms of voting options.
You won't be surprised to know we're among a minority of states still operating with the least accessibility possible.
"It's as if Best Buy were open only Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.," says Committee of Seventy boss Zack Stalberg, who is among those working on election reforms.
Such work is needed.
Two-thirds of the states and the District of Columbia allow early voting, usually during a two-week period leading up to Election Day, according to National Conference of State Legislatures data.
In these states, including neighbors Maryland and Ohio, voters not only can go to official election offices but also to shopping malls, grocery stores, schools and libraries.
Thirty states, including Maryland, Ohio and New Jersey, permit non-absentee mail-in voting; nine states, including New Jersey, have a permanent mail-in voting system under which you can automatically get ballots for future elections.
Toby Richie, executive director of the election-reform group FairVote, says that two states, Oregon and Washington, no longer have polling places (one county in Washington state does). Instead, all voting is done by mail or, for those who distrust the postal service, at government drop-offs.
He also notes that some early-voting states, such as North Carolina, allow same-day registration; Ohio allows more than a month for early voting and San Francisco is voting this year on adding another vote-at-the polls day to election cycles, the Saturday before Election Day.
These are mostly convenience efforts, though Richie notes that "they might stop get-out-the-vote calls . . . and ease burdens on underfunded state and county elections systems."
Pennsylvania, "The Land of Status Quo," has none of these. The only option here is a pre-approved, with-excuse absentee ballot - or not voting.
And that's at least part of the reason you feel that little gut-gnaw.
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