Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"No You Can't Vote Here"

Ready to do my civic duty and vote today, I set off for my regular polling place only to find there was nobody there. We vote in the local elementary schools, so I asked the secretary if maybe the polls had closed early or something.

Sec: "No, you can't vote here, they only have a few places open today."

Me: "But it's the Democratic primary and this is my official legal voting place."

Sec: "Well they only have a few places open during these minor elections."

Me in bubble over my head, thinking: "A year ago was the primary where Webb defeated Miller. That was a total mob scene. Minor elections??"

Me, politely: "Do you happen to know where I -can- vote, then?"

Sec: "Let me see if I can get someone on the phone."

This was interrupted by a mom who came to pick up an injured child and I decided that was a vastly more important use of the secretary's time. Thanking her, I left and drove home in quite a huff. My time wasted, my inclination to participate in elections thwarted.

The candidate I wished to vote for had urged me to vote on June 12 and provided a web link to where the polling places were. Something was wrong here. A phone call to the campaign predictably got the answering maching, they of course were out working.

As I was dialing the State Board of Elections to ask about the situation, a tiny little light went on over my head. [the aforementioned bubble had gone away.] What if this was not, in fact, my candidate?

Needed to marshall the facts. Ok candidate literature which had cruelly taken me away from my couch and blog in order to do my civic duty. Checked to see which district: yes, the xy-th district. That's mine. Then checked to see who the incumbent was. Say WHAT? He's in a different place, one town over.

Turns out I had not read the campaign literature very carefully. I do in fact live in the xy district: for the state senate. Said candidate is running in the same numbered district: for the state house. Headsmack.

After being sufficiently bewildered, I had to admit the joke was on me. For this is one of my most favorite categories of mistakes [which I collect]: insufficient separation of the variables.

For a few minutes I had a taste of what many Americans of color experience when they try to vote: "No, you can't vote here." It was a moment I will remember when working for electoral reform in the future.

If I as an educated, politically aware [HA!] suburban voter couldn't keep things straight, I feel sorry for those with less time to figure out the truth from the lies in the pamphlets that tell them they can't vote either. Is this any way to run a country?


egregious said...

Have you hugged a poll worker today?

Anonymous said...

I had an experience last November which led me on an additional 60 miles of driving while feeling like I wasn't supposed to vote. Not a good feeling.

They moved my polling place without notifying me. Determination, in the end, paid off that day.

As the saying goes 11-7 changed everything.


egregious said...

ES! Great to see you here. Would like to hear more about your experience sometime.