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November 2nd, 2004


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01:10 pm - Get out and vote, if you're old enough to die for your country.
I woke up this morning feeling quite good. I knew exactly what today was: my own chance to change the world. Voting is better magic than any number of stupid spells or sloppy marketing. Voting proves you love your country, and it proves that you have control over your reality.

My polling place is the gymnasium of the local elementary school. Most election days (actually, every election day that I've been there for), I shuffle up to the little old ladies behind the table, smile, show my ID, and sign the paper. I vote, and I'm out in 5 minutes.

This morning, with a desire to be on time to work and expecting a short line, I woke up and got to the polling place at 6:40 AM. What I saw was shocking.

The line stretched from the table, around the gym, behind the voting machines, and out the door. Only four voting machines graced the hardwood floor.

I later found out that there were about 80 people who voted before I did.

So, at 6:40 in the morning, ten minutes after the polls open, I'm standing in the cool morning air, chatting up a neighbor I'd never met.

For a while, we just talked. In Ohio, nearly anything you say can be picked up by an election worker and declared "campaigning" if they really want to call it that, and then you get fined and all sorts of other fun things, so she and I just talked about how we were both unsure what was going on, and whether we'd watch the coverage tonight.

We talked a bit about Issue 1, the poorly-named "gay marriage amendment", and about the weird way it was worded (this particular amendment could be interpreted to mean that women can't have maternity leave), and about how unsure she was about it. I made the comment that a constitutional amendment should never be ambiguous.

We moved on to talking about the election itself. We never said who we were voting for: it was all, "Well, I've made up my mind," and "I think that the guy I'm voting for understands me better." It was pleasant, and she smiled when I told her that last year I changed my mind in the booth, and she smiled, saying, "What about this year?"

I replied that I wasn't in the booth yet.

We talked a bit more as we shuffled forward. Now we were standing directly behind two voting machines, the power-cords under my feet. My neighbor said that she would be watching the election coverage tonight. I told her I didn't plan on that. "I'll just wake up and look out the window. If I see troop transports, I'll know Kerry won." She laughed.

At this time, one of the polling ladies came over in a tizzy. She was making excited motions toward my feet and trying to say something, but she couldn't quite get it out.

Finally, she managed, "If you trip over those wires, and they come out, we'll lose all the votes on the machine, and we can't turn them back on!"

So what I learned today at the polling place is this: if you want to sabotage the Franklin County Board of Elections, just unplug the machines.

I asked her if she would tape them down, or at least re-route the line so that it didn't go behind all four machines. No, she said, they can't do that. She gave me some mumbled excuse, and I went to the poll judge.

"Can you please tape the cords down?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"We don't have any tape. And people shouldn't step on them."

I was puzzled. "Can we re-route the line, then?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because we don't have anywhere else to put people."

I went back to the line, and told my neighbor what I'd been told. The story started spreading down the line. "Votes aren't retrievable?" I heard one person ask. "Do we get to come back and vote again if that happens?" I heard another ask.

The noise level in the room was going up, but everyone was being very, very careful of the power-cords. Finally, someone with some sense ran out for some duct tape and brought it back. The cords were finally taped down, and with the tape, the voices subsided.

By now, I'd turned the first corner. I'd been here for 30 minutes, and was 1/4 of the way through the line.

On the wall were the issues. I read through them quietly, checking the numbers against what I'd pay, figuring them up quietly in my head. On asked for $250 per year from me for schools. One wanted me to ban smoking in public places. One demanded that I pay nearly $300/year for new roads. One asked for $5/year to help out the Columbus Zoo. Some of these issues were reasonable, and some were not. I re-evaluated my choices, and changed some of my opinions.

This morning, I was noting to fred_smith the number of elections and issues that were on my ballot. I think I came up with something in the high thirties. There was a lot of reading to be done.

As I was chatting with other people in the line, we got to talking about the number of machines in our polling place. Four seemed a bit low. I joked that the richer districts probably had more, as they were more likely to go Republican, and it was all a sham to make us too disgruntled to vote. I was slightly flabbergasted that I was right when I got to work and asked around.

We shuffled forward a bit more. While sitting on the floor, I saw one elderly woman collapse. She was fine, but a bit shaken. She had probably been in line for an hour at that point, if she had gotten there before 6:30, and I think she just couldn't take it anymore. She was moved immediately to the front of the line, and while none of us begrudged her quick method to the booth, we still laughed and joked that maybe we should try the same route. Several people put the backs of their hands to their foreheads and pretended to faint. We got a good laugh out of that.

Around the corner we went, and I handed my neighbor a book to read. It was Ellwood's Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America. I'm hoping she learned something about Neo-Paganism.

I, on the other hand, began to read aloud from the Principia Discordia. Over the next 20 minutes, we ended up about to the last quarter of the line, and several people who had nothing better to do were educated about Eris. It was quite nice.

Finally, we got to the front of the line. At this point, someone walked into the center of the gym and announced that several of us were likely to be in the wrong place. There was another school, right next door, that had voting, too, and we needed to check out registration. I was fortunate to be in the right place, but at least 30 people behind me were not.

The things they grumbled as they walked past me are not fit for children to hear.

I was told that I could go check in, and so I walked to the table. My name was found, and I signed. I was given my card, and put in line to vote.

That's when Tina finally arrived. I told her how long the line was, and she went and merrily got in line.

I got into my booth, and began voting. I made some last minute decisions and changes, as I'm prone to do, and even flip-flopped on a few issues. But I'm confident that my vote was right and was the best I could do.

I left a few blank. I don't like the idea of guessing when it comes to politics, because you can end up screwing yourself quite badly if you aren't careful.

I'm quite happy to say that I didn't vote a straight ticket. I like to think myself more intelligent than that.

I slipped out, got my sticker, and ran off to work, thirty minutes late.

I've never stood in line so long to simply exercise a right, but when it's my right to vote, I'd have stood there all day, if I had to. The final time was one hour, twenty minutes.

Get out and vote.
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: "Who's That Blonde Stranger", -JB

(24 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:ceolnamara
Date:November 2nd, 2004 10:28 am (UTC)
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I am so very glad that I voted absentee. I was able to sit at my computer and google each thing as I did it.

See you tonight, for a bit. My LLP is having an election-night shindig that I am expected at.
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From:tlachtga
Date:November 2nd, 2004 10:30 am (UTC)
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Suddenly I don't feel so bad for having to wait half an hour. But then, our polling places only open at 7, and I was in line at 7. #47, baby!
From:perlgirlju
Date:November 2nd, 2004 10:41 am (UTC)
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As a UA resident, we only had 3 per precinct. Of course, we had three precincts voting in the gym, so there were a LOT of people there. I waited about 45 minutes all told. Got there about 8:55 am, and left around 9:40 am. I'm just glad that for once I didn't have my kids with me. I usually take them, but with the lines and the wait this year, it was best not to have the chaos patrol with me....
(Deleted comment)
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 10:53 am (UTC)
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Oh, I failed to mention that I also purchased a hot dog as soon as I could find one after leaving the polls. If there was no Eris, would there be voting in America? I think not.

Hail Eris, and let's win one for a change :)
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From:kittenpants
Date:November 2nd, 2004 10:59 am (UTC)
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"Voting is better magic than any number of stupid spells or sloppy marketing. Voting proves you love your country, and it proves that you have control over your reality."

Bíodh sé!
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From:rfunk
Date:November 2nd, 2004 11:13 am (UTC)
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I love the idea of reading the Principia to people while waiting in line. What was the reaction to that?

I agree with you about leaving things blank rather than guessing. But I'd argue that a straight ticket can be the intelligent thing; these days things are so partisan that it's often (but not always) the most intelligent choice.

Sounds like a few more people were educated on the perils of electronic voting. And to think that I trusted my vote to those Franklin County electronic machines for years.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 11:33 am (UTC)
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Well, the reaction was pretty much the usual, "What's this guy doing?" My Pink Principia, I'm sure, made a dashing impression.

But the ladies who were running the polls had the best expressions. It was, "Well, he's not campaigning, and no one's complaining, but I'm sure he isn't supposed to be reading that!"

A straight ticket could be the most intelligent thing, if everyone in a particular party were honest, just, or even simple-minded. Instead, there are people on the ballot on both sides you just shouldn't vote for, if you have a conscience. Of course, it's really hard to vote a straight ticket Democratically when the County Coroner is running unopposed and he's a Republican, which doesn't seem like it's an important enough job to abstain on, just because the guy is Republican.

As for the perils of electronic voting. . . I rather like the voting. I just wish they gave a receipt. The fact that all votes would be lost in the event of a power outage. . . well, that frightens me.
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From:saffronhare
Date:November 2nd, 2004 11:39 am (UTC)
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This PoliSci major is so proud.
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From:rfunk
Date:November 2nd, 2004 11:56 am (UTC)

unopposed and electronics

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I tend to abstain on uncontested races unless I really like the person.

And I liked those Columbus machines too... then after I left I realized that I had no way of knowing my vote would be counted. That seems like a top consideration.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:02 pm (UTC)

Re: unopposed and electronics

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Yes. I really think it's a simple matter of printing out two receipts: one goes in a box, the other you take home.

*sighs*

I actually abstained on several uncontested races.
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From:rfunk
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:38 pm (UTC)

receipts

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Take-home receipts are a no-go. They lead directly to vote-buying.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:49 pm (UTC)

Re: receipts

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You're absolutely right. I hadn't even throught about that.

The problem with being honest: you don't think of the crooked ways to turn a buck.
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From:rfunk
Date:November 2nd, 2004 02:08 pm (UTC)

Re: receipts

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Learning about security and how to stop the bad guys tends to help you think of the crooked stuff. (Bruce Schneier is a great commentator on security issues, especially relating to technology.)
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From:rfunk
Date:November 2nd, 2004 11:58 am (UTC)

oh yeah, coroner

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I also tend not to worry too much about party with the more professional jobs like coroner and engineer. On the other hand, I kinda wish Ohio would go ahead and put the party on the judge races, since even the judges get partisan these days.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:09 pm (UTC)

Re: oh yeah, coroner

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Oh, hell, yeah. It'd be a great help. I'm a much bigger fan of Democrats deciding things about my civil liberties than Republicans, at the moment.

Whatever happened to conservatives who wanted a government that didn't invade your privacy? Are we an endangered species?
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:16 pm (UTC)

Re: oh yeah, coroner

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I believe those are now called "Libertarians". :)
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:24 pm (UTC)

Re: oh yeah, coroner

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"Libertarians" don't win elections. :)

Why would I want to be something that never wins?
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From:tosk
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:35 pm (UTC)

Re: oh yeah, coroner

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"Why would I want to be something that never wins?"

As opposed to...?

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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 01:36 pm (UTC)

Re: oh yeah, coroner

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True. Voting has taken a turn for the "no matter who wins, you lose".

Sad state. But at least more people heard about Eris today.
From:tanrinia
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:57 pm (UTC)
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i will take electronic voting over the punch cards which i used for the first tiem this a.m. (after an hour and 45 minute wait).

with my lovely electronic machines, they have pretty lights that you can check and re-check and re-re-check to make sure you voted for the right person until you hit the magic green 'vote' button. can't do that with the punchy cards (although i did make sure there were no hanging chads).

i'm fairly certain that because i'm white and live in a mostly white precinct (although this one is more diverse than my prior location) my vote does count :)

and i voted a straight dem line after years of voting multi-party because i am SICK TO DEATH of the way that ohio has gone under largely republican rule :) so :P those republicans running unopposed didn't get my vote.

either way, it was GREAT to have to stand in line. if only people showed such interest in ALL elections.

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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 01:33 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I agree that the Republicans have run Ohio into the shithouse these past few years.

Wish I'd been more informed a couple of years ago.
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From:rfunk
Date:November 2nd, 2004 02:02 pm (UTC)

checking punch cards

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I double-checked my punch card ballot by comparing the numbers beside the names with the numbers beside the punched holes. I learned this technique when I learned about Ohio's absentee ballot debacle. I just wish I'd been aware of it in previous elections here.
(Deleted comment)
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 2nd, 2004 12:59 pm (UTC)
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Punch ballots have some high points. Most other districts in Ohio use them, and the Secretary of State (one of those sleezes you mention) had a commercial on TV to show people how to vote. He described how to check your ballot.

"Make sure there are no Florida hanging chads."

He said it so off-the-cuff, so smoothly, that it almost sounded as if it were an actual type of hanging chad.

I almost forgot how much of a sleeze he was.

Oh, news from the Polls: Tina just finished voting. It took her two full hours.
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From:rhiannon76
Date:November 2nd, 2004 01:13 pm (UTC)
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it took me two hours to vote on saturday, but i think a lot of that had to do with the early voting here consisting of doing the paper absentee ballot, which possibly might take longer than an electric machine (gotta make sure those scantron bubbles are properly filled in!) i'm glad i did it then instead of today, though, because i had 2 free hours to give to the voting process then that i don't have today. also it's pouring rain today, and the thought of a slow line out the door into the rain is not appealing.

it's amazing though, to hear all these stories of how many people are out and voting this time.

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