Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Election of the Century: Midday Update

It's raining here today -- or it's at least drizzly and cold today. Between that and the schumcky choices we have for Community College Board of Trustees, it's almost like God doesn't want us to vote at all.

But my polling place is at a local temple, the house of the chosen people. And I don't want to make a choice.

Just before 10:00 a.m., three hours after the polls had opened, I wandered into this downstairs room at the temple. There were six pollworkers inside, which, coincidentally, was two less than the number of voters who'd come in to vote that morning. (I was all set to take a picture of the desolation, but was quickly told photos were forbidden.)

First I had to look at a map to find out if I lived in the red section of my precinct or the blue section. Then I had to go to the right table to sign in. A nice senior citizen woman flipped through page after unsigned page to find my name. She turned the book around and I signed next to my name. Then I was given a ballot and invited to use any booth.

"Booth" is a charitable word; each one is more like a folding podium with a little contraption where you slide your ballot in until it's snug over two pegs, then you "ink" the bubbles next to the candidates whose names appear in the built-in ballot, the ballot that looks identical to the one we get in the mail. The one with two candidates.

Ink one bubble.

I slid the ballot in. Watched two of the ballot's 336 little circles appear next to Scott Svonkin and Lydia Gutierrez. My ink-a-vote pen still had its cap on.

I pulled my ballot out. Then I pulled two black markers out of my backpack -- a thin one and a thick one. I seriously considered using the thick one to write NEITHER in big letters across the bubbles. But that seemed too anti-establishment. After all, this isn't the 1960s.

During all this, I kept waiting for some pollworker to come up to me and ask me if I had a problem, since it was taking me so long to pick one person. But they were absorbed in a conversation. One worker, an authoritative-sounding type who seemed to be a pollworking veteran, was on the phone with a pollworker (yes, apparently SEVEN people were scheduled to be there) who said she was going to be late. The veteran told her not to bother coming since they didn't need the help.

"Who was that?" asked one man.

"[Name] who worked here before," said the veteran.

"Who's that?"

"Big black woman."

"Oh, yeah. Her."

Then she came over to tell the assembled workers the whole story about how [name] was a notorious flake. A college girl got up from her history book and passed by me to do something. She didn't ask if I was having a problem.

Finally, I stepped up to the table and asked, "What do I do if I don't want to vote for either of these people?" The senior citizen looked up from her paperback and laughed.

The veteran told me I could write "neither" in the write-in section of the ballot.

So I whipped out my Sharpie and did just that.

"Black marker. That's bold," said the man.

I gotta be me.

Then the veteran told me to tear off the top. I tore at the wrong perforation, which caused at least two pollworkers to shriek.

I ruined my ballot.

I asked for another ballot; they said that wouldn't be necessary. "Gee, don't tell me my 'neither' vote isn't going to count."

"No, no," said the veteran. "We put the whole thing into that white bin, where the write-in ballots go."

Then at the door,  I ended up chatting with the whole room for a moment. I found out a couple of tidbits. First off, we're having another election in June.


The reason they couldn't combine this election with the next one is because runoffs, by rule, must be held within a maximum number of days after the general election that caused them. Folding this election into the June election would violate that.

As we soaked in the disgust of that one, the election veteran said they'd be lucky to get 25 voters today. They indulged my request to see how many registered voters were listed in their rolls for this precinct. About 3,900.

In other words, the pollworker's educated guess projected a voter turnout of about two-thirds of one percent.

And this is for a runoff that's at least partly a referendum on wasteful spending.


Dave Meyer said...

This is one of the best election pieces since Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail. Your last sentence summed it up succinctly.

Craig Hart said...

Hi, Joe

I apologize for using the comments for this purpose, but I couldn't find a contact page.

I found your site through "By Ken Levine" and was wondering if you'd be interested in trading links with me.

My site (http://www.craighartonline.com) is mostly humor, along the lines of The Onion. Check it out if you wish and I hope to hear from you soon!

- Craig Hart