Rocking the vote

I just rocked the vote. It’s always such a surreal experience. You put so much weight on one little action, and it only happens once in a while, so that when you finally do it, it just comes and goes so fast, leaving you feeling almost a little hollow afterward. That’s kind of dramatic. But wouldn’t you agree that there’s a ton of build up for a two minute procedure that, when you step back from it, never really feels as grand as you thought it would be?

I imagined myself heroically. First of all, I got up much earlier than normal. I guess it really depends on what your definition of early is, but for a guy who normally wakes up closer to ten everyday, I thought seven-thirty was pretty impressive. Yeah, I had set the alarm to seven, and another one for seven-fifteen, but whatever, seven-thirty was, wow, I’m still pinching myself to make sure this isn’t one of those snooze-button induced dreams where you think you’re getting up, going into the shower, making breakfast, going to vote, and then all of the sudden you roll over and it’s nine and you’re still in bed. Does that happen to anybody else? I’m just going to go ahead and assume that, of course it does.

So I get to the polling place and there are lines of people waiting to direct everybody else. I’m pretty sure the poll workers outnumbered the voters by a margin of two to one. And it goes without saying, because everybody always talks about this, but all of the volunteers are senior citizens, and you can just tell how pumped they are to be running the show.

“This is it,” I could imagine themselves getting all motivated for the big day, “Once every four years, we’re back in charge! No computers! No cell phones! Just mountains of paperwork and lots of people to be corralled into long lines! Let’s go out there and show these whippersnappers how to get some work done!”

The system is, whatever, it seems stupid to complain about a process that wasn’t really that bad or that long, one that only happens once in a while anyway. But still, just like the last time I voted, I walked through the door and there were more than a few different lines of people. They asked me for my address and the first letter of my last name. And then they told me to wait in line B. There was only one person in line B, which was great for me. But I looked around, and line D had people snaking outside of the polling place. It didn’t make any sense. But I wasn’t complaining, because I got out very quick.

This was the first time that I voted that there weren’t any giant voting machines. It used to be so cool, you’d switch in all of the levers for the candidates you wanted to vote for, and then you had to pull a giant mechanical arm, so the machine could tally all of your votes. You could feel the whole thing rocking from the inside, this big metal booth, bigger than a soda machine.

This time it was just a scantron. You filled out the bubbles, and then slid it into a little voting scanner machine. I missed that visceral sensation of having voted, having made voting this physical exercise. With the old machines, you really needed to pull, making it feel like you had actually accomplished something. After I slid in my paper, I actually said, “That’s it? I’m done?” and had to be pointed towards the exit, “Yeah, that’s it. Now move it, line D is getting restless.”

A couple of things. Not that it’s anybody’s business, but not like it’s a state secret either, I voted down party lines, not because I’m a loyal partisan, but just because I didn’t really feel like it would be worth it to vote for any third party candidates. Best case scenario, I’d be helping the opposition. Another minor point, there were two judge elections where the Democrats were running unopposed. I filled in the bubble for the first one, but then I immediately wished that I hadn’t. If this guy is going to win anyway, why give him my vote? It’s just a huge joke, really. Why even have an election for that position? I could imagine this guy running for reelection years from now claiming, “The people love me. Look how many votes I got!” when it was really just a matter of default luck.

But voting is a good thing. I always like to vote. I always like feeling like I’m marginally a part of the political process, of America. I wish it were more based on the popular vote, because I hate to think that my presidential vote “doesn’t count.” Because yeah, it was much more satisfying to vote for Senator, to vote for those incompetent clowns that run the show in Albany.

Random: For the 2004 election I was still a college student. I had this one class called American Pluralism, all about America and stuff. Anyway, right before the election, the professor held an informal vote, everybody wrote down who they were voting for and passed it to the prof, who tallied it up, wasting a solid ten minutes of class time. He announced the results, “OK, so we have X for Bush, X for Kerry, and … one vote for MacGyver.” And he said it totally straight-faced, as if he had no idea that he had just been punked. The whole class burst out into laughter and, I have to tell you, it was such a satisfying laugh, like I felt like my insides were being massaged and worked out.

Before I wrap it up here, I do have one suggestion. There should be a voting machine, but it’s like a wall, and there will be spots in the wall painted red or blue or whatever color your party is. And you have to punch through the wall (it’s going to be plywood, nothing too strong,) to retrieve your ballot for that party. And that way, you could really feel like you voted, even more than the old voting machines, like your hand will be really sore for the rest of the day and maybe even a little cut up. “A small price to pay,” you could tell everyone. And that could just be maybe an optional method, you know, only if you wanted to. So, just for the future, that’s something that the board of elections should consider.

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