Just got home from voting at the Jewish Community Center that's around the corner from my apartment building. Took me about 1 minute to walk there and then I stood in line for over an hour waiting to get my ballot.
As I waited, cognizant of the MUCH longer wait times being reported in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere, I looked around the room to try and understand the "system" that was at work. When you entered the polling place, you gave your address to one of two folks at the front door. They then directed voters to one of three lines, corresponding to their district. My district was one of the two pretty long lines, maybe 15 or so people in line. I thought, this isn't too bad. Until the line barely moved. At the little card table set up at the front of the line, there were three poll workers (I assume they were volunteers) and it was essentially like watching a Three Stooges routine. The woman on the left had a book with every registered voter's name in alphabetical order. The voter was supposed to give her their name, she looked it up and then the man next to her gave her the number of the ballot that he was giving to the voter, she wrote that in the book and then had the voter sign under their xeroxed signature to verify they were who they said they were. Then at the end of the table, a second woman filled out a voter card with some random information and honestly, I still don't know what that was about.
Even this seems extremely archaic and sort of stupid, it would probably work a bit better if the three poll workers actually knew what they were doing and if they did their jobs instead of fighting with each other. As my line continued to grow while lines around me shrunk, I began to wonder if the woman with the book had a problem with finding names sorted alphabetically, and I wasn't the only one. Another poll worker came over and started yelling at her in front of everyone, saying she couldn't spell, etc., and it all became very tense and wrought. The guy with the ballots was giving the wrong numbers out and the woman at the end of the table with the cards had been filling them out incorrectly all day and was only corrected when I was there at about 2 p.m.
I kept thinking, there has GOT to be a better way for people to vote! This is ridiculous. I know republicans don't want more people to vote and there's that huge obstacle, but I'm not sure that all votes are counted. Anyway, I tried to stay focused and excited about voting for President Obama and other dems. But then when I finally got to the table, I was told that I had to cast an Affidavit Ballot, which is sort of a provisional ballot in NY. Why, you might wonder? Well, I did move in the last year and then I updated my registration with my new address (in the same district as my old address), but for some reason, even though I received a card in the mail saying I was ready to vote at my new polling place, I wasn't able to vote in the traditional way. No one in the building could explain to me why that was. I had no recourse but to cast the provisional ballot.
So, I did. But here's the VERY weird thing about it. There's two parts to the Affidavit Ballot. First, there's the ballot itself, that doesn't require any personal information. You just fill out your candidate selections. And then there is the Affidavit itself, which is printed on the actual envelope that the ballot goes into. On this envelope, you put your name, address, phone number and party identification. So, right on the top of this envelope I had to write my name and that I was a democrat (and therefore, was likely voting for democrats).
And where do these Affidavit Ballots with my party preference boldly written go? I figured it would be into some sort of special ballot box where they would be counted by hand later. Nope. You have to give it to a poll worker. I had noticed someone who seemed like a manager when I'd been standing in line, so I asked him if he could help me. The first thing he did was to see if I had written my party affiliation on the Affidavit. "Oh, I see you wrote Democrat." I said, "yep." He said, "okay, I'll take it." Our eyes met for a second as I wondered what he was going to do with my ballot. He could tell I was concerned and then showed me an envelope with a couple of other Affidavit Ballots inside. He put mine in and said it would get counted. I had no choice but to leave it with him and trust he was right. I asked if it would be counted today and after hesitating he said it would be a while.
All of the Affidavit Ballots in that envelope, and in similar envelopes across the state, have the voter's party affiliation written on the outside. How easy would it be if some of these just never made it to their final destination? An election worker wouldn't even have to open the envelopes to know who was voted for. There's literally no record that I came in to vote, if my ballot gets tossed, it was like I was never there.
As I made my way through the chaos of angry voters and grouchy senior citizens who were stressed by standing in line for an hour or more, I thought about how many New Yorkers have had a really shitty week, even those of us who came through the hurricane unscathed have had to deal with huge inconveniences in transportation, getting gas, losing pay, and worrying about friends and family. Voting for government that will help us in times like this is a critical action we can take to feel like we actually have some control over what happens to us. Casting a ballot that I can't guarantee will ever be counted really sucks and I feel disgruntled with the whole system, or rather, lack of system.
I know there's a better way, and I know republicans will never let it get fixed. They don't want my vote to be counted. And this time, there's a good chance they'll win.
Yes, I don't live in a swing state, so I guess it's no great loss. And I know there are a lot of folks in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida (and elsewhere) who are truly being disenfranchised by design as I type. It pisses me off and I'm sick of my fellow Americans voting for these kinds of scoundrels. Voting is supposed to be empowering, but today it was more of a let-down. I can only hope that the election doesn't go that same way.