We don't wish to seem like what our colleague David Plotz refers to as "Turnout Bores," but it really is a pity if you missed the chance to exercise that precious gift of democracy, your right to vote, Tuesday. What the high-minded Turnout Bores usually fail to emphasize in their tiresome calls to moral responsibility ("How can you leave all those referendums untouched when children are starving in Russia?") is that voting is fun.
Having been through those huge postwar sci-fi voting machines, and then those infernal punch-card contraptions seemingly designed to deny the franchise to the bottom nine-tenths of the bell curve, we especially enjoyed the new technological breakthrough adopted by the election board (or whoever) here in suburban Seattle. It works this way: You are given a piece of paper listing the candidates and propositions (a "ballot"), you indicate your choices using a device called (we believe) a "felt-tipped pen," then you deposit the piece of paper through a slot in a large container called a "ballot box." What happens to the piece of paper after that we neither know nor care--having voted and thus earned our right to feel smug all day. This being the Pacific Northwest, the ballot is undoubtedly recycled. But if the citizens who open and empty the ballot box can suppress their eagerness to recycle these pieces of paper long enough to count them first, so much the better.
In case you did miss voting Tuesday, or even if you voted, here is another chance. Nothing so trivial as control of Congress is at stake. The issue is this: Should Slate on Paper include everything published in Slate the previous week or only as much as can be crammed into 44 standard-size pages? Slate on Paper is the text document we prepare every Friday morning. It is available to subscribers by download from slate.com, by e-mail, or (for $70, including your basic online Slate subscription) in an actual paper edition through the U.S. mail.
Right now we limit Slate on Paper to 44 pages because a) we doubt many people would wish to download and print out more than that; and b) the snail mailed version (which believe it or not is just a break-even proposition for us) would have to cost more like $100 than $70 if it gets any heavier. But as Slate has grown, this policy has required us to exclude more and more. And some readers have complained that when they print out Slate, they want all of it. (Actually, our reader surveys suggest that about half of those who download the text document read it on-screen rather than printing it out. For these folks, presumably, size is not as much of an issue.)
We are in a genuine quandary. We exist only to give pleasure but are unsure in this case how to maximize your pleasure in Slate. So we decided to take a vote. Highly unscientific, of course, but (like all voting) fun. Readers who have never used Slate on Paper in any of its myriad forms, and have no intention of doing so, should please sit on their hands. The rest of you: Please vote now. We have done our best to word the question in a neutral way, giving unfair advantage to neither side. We reserve the right, of course, to ignore the voters' wishes. Just like in a real election.
The official language of this referendum is as follows:
Should Slate on Paper, the weekly text version of Slate magazine, be limited to just 44 pages, no matter how much wonderful writing and brilliant insight must be excluded as a result? Or should Slate on Paper include everything published online at slate.com the previous week, no matter how many pages it takes or how long the Breakfast Tablers or Book Clubbers blather on?
"And you call yourselves editors? Well, edit for heaven's sake. 44 pages is plenty." (Vote: 44 pages.)
"Look, I paid 20 bucks for this rag, and I want all of it. Don't give me this crap about how the crab claws wouldn't fit on the smorgasbord table." (Vote: Without limit.)