ethel’s words

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I am 85 years old; I voted as soon as old enough. I had the privilege of voting for Henry Wallace, the loser, and for all-time winner, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Later on, as I learned Reality Civics, I became intensely interested in Civil Liberties, long before I knew that term. I wrote my first “Letter To Editor” at age 16 or 17 and have not quit. Electoral politics and elementary-school history never gripped me. I liked labor history and protest traditions.

Now I write for, and at this moment I am seething--having no listener to hear my dismay and my ire engendered by the Salt Lake City Mayoral and Council contests of 2007. My dismay follows, I believe, my ire. Before the primary election--two days before, one of which was Sunday--my signs for candidates of my choice were stolen, as well as a home-made sign admonishing “VOTE!”. A space on that sign was for updating each day.

These signs were legitimately placed, not reachable without trespass. So two crimes (could be made into three) were committed, and I will be astounded if there is any consideration whatsoever given to investigation and prosecution of these acts.

The significance of stealing my words (my signs) is that it is stealing my freedom of speech--courts have held that signs are speech--and depriving me of my citizenship rights.

Does anyone care? Hardly. In Utah the constitution of the U.S. is a bauble, an ikon, to talk about with forked tongue; it does not apply in theocratic Utah. Free speech has only one dimension in Utah--it is the right of Mormons to pray in public places without interference or even opportunity to respond. There is no understanding of time and place, nor of others’ rights.

This is why, all my life in Salt Lake City, I have been dismayed and angry after every election. My memory can disgorge many examples of illegal or unethical conduct regarding elections. One of the funniest was when one of the judges took the ballot box home with her--she thought it was hers. In another, the location of (then) mass meetings was changed at “the last minute” (!) and the place for voting was also changed. When Jesse Jackson was the subject, and when Dukakis was the subject, the very party “sponsoring” them put the balloting too far away for anyone over 50 to walk.

The morning Enid Green was elected, the area in which I live was blanketed with illegally-placed Enid Green signs--in street strips, private properties, church lots, business properties. And I mean blanketed. It was astounding. Guess who.

And most importantly, no one will ever convince me that Frances Farley did not win her bid for Congress; who managed the re-count after her victory had already been celebrated? She was totally trusting, as in, “see no evil” etc.

Another case for anger: in The Fifties somebody removed my name from the registry--not once but twice--and I was furious. I am still furious that somebody could remove a persons’s right to vote with no notice or hearing. (Is that still possible?)

Election procedure before last, when interviewees reportedly were “happy with the machines” I was furious. When I got to the proposition--the most important item--the machine just rolled it away--immediately--there was no chance to vote, and no turn-back.

My most recent irritation, in addition to these perfidious, cursed machines that can erase my vote and me--is to find that somebody has changed my name on the registry! Now, I have a legal right to use any name whatsoever that I choose to use. I have, in the past, let others influence my use, for example, to provide comfort to persons bound in chains of tradition. Long ago, when I went to vote, my “sweet little ladies” (that is sincere--they were) said, quite concerned, “Oh, when you get married, you have to use your husband’s name.” Okay, so ever since, I have been voting as Ethel Wharton, my legal married name. I was on the visitor’s list at the State Prison, and some administrator said, “If you are married, you have to use your husband’s name.” Okay. Ethel Wharton. But then, the IRS and the Utah State Tax Commission objected to my being listed as Mrs. Ethel Wharton (I think it was) so there I became Ethel C. Hale, my birth name, my Social Security name, the name I sign when I write something.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2007, when I gave my name to the voting judge as Ethel Wharton, and the book was turned for me to sign, the name was “Ethel Corinne Hale Wharton”. Those names are mine, and I claim others in addition. But, I’d like to know who has been mucking around with my name. I guess they just can’t wait for my obituary.

Ethel C. Hale