Tuesday, November 04, 2008
When my alarm went off at 7 am, I briefly considered throwing on a hat and jeans and heading straight to my polling station a block away. But I was tired and everyone I knew kept telling me they were going first thing in the morning. And the news encouraged people to vote after 9 am if possible. So I hit snooze for another 30 minutes or so and decided to take the advice of the news and go closer to 9 am. I can talk myself into nearly anything that involves snoozing for another 20-30 minutes in the morning.
When I arrived at my polling station around 845, there was a short line out front. Before I even settled into the last place in line, a volunteer was asking me which district I am in. And because I checked last night, I knew. He directed me inside to a short line of only 3-4 people. I thought I had lucked out. A few minutes later when I was giving my name to the volunteers, I noticed a couple of things that seemed different than in past years. First off, the woman asking me my name had a sticker that read "Republican Representative" and the woman next to her had a similar sticker that read "Democratic Representative." I don't remember seeing this in the past. As in the past, I gave my last name and waited for the woman to find it so I could sign my name. I did not spell my name. She looked for a bit then shook her head at me and informed me that there was only a "David [fill in my last name]". Confused, I looked at the sheet. This was my fourth time voting in this same district. Below David [with my last name spelled wrong] was my name. Spelled the same way I have spelled it my whole life. When I pointed out that was me, she grew concerned. Then asked me for photo id. I have never been asked for photo id when I have voted in the past. I think she was suspicious of that one rogue letter in my last name that she thought should have been different. I fumbled around in my bag turned over my id, happy that my driver's license address matches my voter registration. Both the Republican and Democratic Representatives inspected my id. Apparently I looked suspicious. After I signed my name, the Democratic Representative woman handed me a small white card with my information written on it.
With that behind me, I was directed toward yet another line, which to my horror stretched down a long hallway. A long, hot hallway. It must have been close to 90 degrees in there. I pulled out some work I had brought in anticipation of a wait and periodically sent emails from my blackberry. The line moved fairly quickly and when I was about 20 people from the front, right next to the double doors that separated the long line from view of the first line, a man with a very official looking video camera (with no logo) propped open the second door and started filming the line. I know he pointed that stupid camera right at me, so I intently studied the brief I was holding - red pen tucked behind my ear. Sweating. Because it was hot. And now someone was filming me. Ugh.
After the camera left, I gave up trying to read and just took in the scene. It was then that I recognized a couple of faces. One was a friend who lives a couple of blocks from me but was in line for a different district. We made eye contact and nodded at one another. I don't believe the second person saw me. It was the manager from my gym. He appeared to be volunteer as he settled in behind one of the tables.
Within the hour I was handing my white card to yet another election volunteer and being ushered into the voting booth. After I closed the curtain, I took a deep breath and inspected the hulking machine before me. It looked a lot like this one (only gray instead of green):
The first time I voted on this antiquated looking machine, I was a bit overwhelmed and slightly confused. See the big red lever? Before you start you are supposed to crank it over to the opposite side. Then you flip the little black switch next to the candidate(s) you select. Then you grab the big red lever and yank it back over to the opposite side. There are giant instructions explaining the process so the learning curve isn't so much a curve as a gentle downhill sliding slope.
But this was not my first time, so I know the drill.
The woman monitoring my booth must have thought I was a first time voter. Or a moron. Because I had not even had a chance to find where on the machine the presidential candidates were listed when she parted the curtain and told me to crank the lever.
Isn't the drawn curtain on a voting booth somewhat sacrosanct?
That is what I thought. So I was a bit unnerved and suddenly felt rushed.
But I wasn't going to be hurried along. I had waited nearly an hour for my time in the booth and I was not going to be rushed along.
I shoved the red lever to the left, selected the presidential candidate I have been waiting to vote for and scanned through the other options on the ballot. I tried to learn more about the other stuff last week but always lost interest. Which means, I only ended up voting for the president. Hopefully, I voted for our future president.
What a great feeling to walk out into the cool, crisp fall air knowing I had exercised a protected right.
I realize not everyone will agree with my chosen candidate. And to you I say, I hope you also voted. We have been presented with an incredible opportunity to exercise our own free agency and participate in the selection of who will be leading our country for the next four years. If I had wanted to vote, as a woman, less than 100 years ago, I would not have had this privilege. It is a privilege and it is important. So I hope you exercise that privilege and vote too.
p.s. please don't take this as an invitation to argue about politics or hurl insults about one candidate or the other. I already had someone sling mud at me on facebook over my voting choice. It is uncalled for and, quite honestly, too late. My vote is already cast.