Thursday, November 09, 2006

In which the Meridian recounts a happy voting experience. No--really!

Most everyone with a modem has been writing up his/her responses to the results of yesterday's election. This won't be about that. Nor will it be an account of malfeasance at my precinct's polling place. This will instead be a happy account of how my voting experience went on Tuesday . . . because it was a happy one.

Some context: As some of you may remember, I recently moved to a smaller apartment, though in the same complex. Back in late September or early October, the county election office sent me a card asking me to confirm my address. I confess to being a bit slow in returning it, but I figured that the office would be able to process the change of address in time for the election.

Just to be sure, though--and because I hadn't heard back from them--on Election Day I called the office to see if they had received the card I'd sent in. The person I spoke to said I was on the precinct roll. So I went to vote that morning.

I got to the polling site. I was indeed listed in the rolls . . . but at my old address. No problem, I was told: go ahead and vote, and just fill out a new voter registration card. I wasn't asked to show a photo ID or proof of residency or submit to a retina scan or anything. (Just so you know, I happen to agree with those who argue that voter registration requirements be as minimal as possible.)

Maybe my very-uncommon surname might have helped me on Tuesday. But I doubt that I would have been allowed to vote, because of my particular situation, in some states with new voter-registration laws, weird surname or no.

At any rate, I went to the (new-to-me) voting machines. They didn't produce a paper record of my votes, but the read-out corresponded to my selections. My votes didn't exactly help decide any races; my candidates' chances of being elected were long-ago foregone conclusions, whether for victory or defeat.

And then something happened, the thing that really prompted me to write this post. After I voted (note: not "before"), I finished filling out my voter registration card at a table. Seated next to me was a man whom most of you would have been forgiven for assuming was homeless. I know I assumed that. Even if he did have a home, I think he'd agree that it would be fair and accurate to say that he had fallen on some extremely hard times. He was filling out a registration card, too, consulting various papers, bureaucratic in appearance, that he had with him as he did so. I wasn't too nosey; I just noted what I saw. But as I noted, and as I filled out my own card, I immediately found myself thinking that I had never felt prouder to be a citizen of this country--both that this man felt himself enough a citizen to vote, too, and that in this county, at least, that feeling was honored and respected.

Oh: I'm back, by the way. What did I miss?


fearful_syzygy said...

New York still employs old-fashioned lever-operated voting machines, it seems, which was both quaint and a relief as I'd heard so many bad things about the newfangled ones. Shoving that lever back over to the left and watching my votes get subsumed by the mechanism was quite a satisfying sensation, all told. But I don't want to over-dramatise it; the whole thing was over in a couple of minutes, and then I just went for lunch as usual. A rather prolonged lunch, actually, which was also nice. On the whole, it was a Good Day.

John B. said...

All this time we've known each other in this on-line way, and I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't realize you are a U.S. citizen. As for the old lever machines, I don't think I've ever actually seen one. I've voted using paper ballots, punch-cards, and a couple different kinds of electronic machines, and Tuesday's experience was the most "trouble" I've ever had. I recognize my good fortune there as well.

fearful_syzygy said...

Well I don't tend to flaunt my Americanness, primarily because in my opinion it amount to little more than a couple of official documents. However little I may consider myself 'an American', those documents nevertheless afford me certain rights, which I am only too keen to take advantage of.

debra said...

Thanks for telling us about your voting warmed my heart.