Elections can be funny, but they’re not a joke

By The Madison County Record | Sep 19, 2018


“Due to the unusually large turnout expected, this year’s election will be held over a two-day period. Republicans will vote on Tuesday, Democrats on the following day.”

Eighteen years ago, just weeks before the 2000 presidential election, some practical joker posted that obviously bogus bulletin online and it went viral – before the term “going viral” had even been coined.

It was meant as a joke, the idea being that any Democrat foolish enough to believe it shouldn’t be voting.

A week later, the prankster discovered that the gag was one of the hottest topics on network news and that Democratic Party officials were furious about it, seriously concerned that it might suppress their turnout, and even threatening to prosecute the unknown person responsible.

Fortunately for the prankster, his identity remains unknown to this day, but his joke has become a fixture of campaign comedy. It’s been resurrected and recirculated in every presidential election since – countless state and local ones, as well – and will probably outlive its author.

“Vote early, vote often” is a joke that predates the two-day election gag and remains a quadrennial, biennial, and perennial favorite. If the latter can be construed as promoting voter suppression, the former, clearly, does just the opposite: encouraging voter duplication.

Still, as the great animated philosopher Homer Simpson often comments, “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.” But the truer it is, and the more the person telling the joke seems not to be kidding, the less funny it becomes. 

Whence the consternation when – at a recent rally in Caseyville attended by Sen. Dick Durbin, gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, and other Democrats angling for higher offices – Totsy Bailey, the head of Steamfitters Local 439, made the following comment:

“You need to early vote … like I say, East St. Louis … vote often, vote early … whatever you can get away with. I shouldn’t say that. I really don’t care.”

Notice he didn’t say he was joking. Nor did any of the high-profile Democrats in attendance.

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Office of Senator Richard Durbin St. Clair County State's Attorney

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