Vote As I Say, Not As I Don’t

As we examine the compliance of presidential candidates with public records requirements, it’s interesting that there’s some significant doubt as to whether Jeb Bush might have committed his own startling oversight by failing to vote in 2008, as reported by Steve Eder and Kitty Bennett of the New York Times:

In the final stretch of the 2008 presidential campaign, Jeb Bush appeared in a television ad urging Floridians to support John McCain, the Republican nominee, at the polls.

“Join me and vote for John McCain,” Mr. Bush said in the 30-second spot.

But according to voting records from Miami-Dade County, where Mr. Bush and his wife, Columba, are longtime residents, the couple did not vote for Mr. McCain or anyone else in that presidential election.

Mr. Bush said through his spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell, that he and his wife cast absentee ballots for Mr. McCain, but election officials could not locate any record that either had voted. Digital and paper records from the 2008 cycle – which may have provided evidence about whether they requested absentee ballots – were destroyed under retention policies, they said….

The episode highlights either an odd oversight by the elections office in Florida’s most populous county, a case of mishandled mail or a strange lapse by Mr. Bush, who is now looking to begin a presidential campaign of his own.

Well, Jeb’s problem prompts me to come clean: I didn’t vote in the 2008 general election either; I was traveling to a wedding out of the country the week before Election Day and accidentally left my absentee ballot at home, unmailed. It was too late to procure another. I did vote in the primary, though. But it still upset me, as it broke a streak of nine presidential elections I’d voted in. I dunno, if Jeb was the stoner he was reputed to be in his younger years, he may have missed one or two at the front end.

We’ll probably never know for sure if Bush missed voting in 2008, but it can be an issue. Once when I was at the DLC I met a congressional candidate who was asking for advice on this or that and suddenly asked, “Do you think it’s a problem that I haven’t voted in twenty years or so? I was in the diplomatic service and was usually overseas. I understand Ike hadn’t voted in ages when he ran for president, so I plan on using that as a response.”

I told him he might not want to compare his situation to Ike’s unless he’d been off winning a world war. He lost pretty badly.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.