Here where I live, as in a number of other states, it was primary day today. You probably can't tell just from reading my blog, but I have a passing interest in politics, so I thought I might stop on by and vote.
I live in the suburbs, and my neighborhood (and thus voting district) is an area with an unusually large population of retired folks. They tend to get out early and vote before I can make it down to the small church school where we cast our ballots. As such, it was no surprise that there were only four voters in front of me when I arrived, along with three voting center volunteers. You're probably familiar with the term "blue haired old ladies" that gets bandied about when people discuss polling place workers. Well in my case, it wasn't a figure of speech. There were two women who literally had blue tinted hair behind a desk checking the registration logs and taking the signatures of the eager participants in democracy. I imagine that they were quite experienced at it, since it appeared by my best guess that they had first voted in the Truman election. The third worker was a man who might have commanded some of Truman's troops in the war. His job was to take the color coded cards we were given (indicating our party affiliation) and set up the voting machine for us and reset it when we were done.
The four participants in democracy who were ahead of me were, by some coincidence, all women. By the looks of it they had all missed out on voting in their early years because they had to wait for the 19th
amendment to be passed in 1920.
As I finished signing the book and taking my blue "Republican" card, I turned and saw two of the women, obviously friends, over by the voting booth. One had clearly finished voting and the other was having a hard time with the lever which closed the curtain and set the machine to take her votes. After a few minutes I heard her say, "These are very hard to read, Margaret."
I became concerned.
She next asked the male volunteer to help her. He pushed the curtain open and they had a brief exchange I could not hear. Then she said, "So I can only vote for the Democrats?"
I was somewhat more concerned.
The volunteer gruffly pushed the curtain open again, sounded exasperated answering more questions, and finally pointed his finger saying, "Well, just push that one, that one and that one." He let the curtain close.
I was beginning to be alarmed.
Finally the woman walked out without opening the curtain lever. The volunteer just sighed, went into the booth and threw the lever for her. The woman was already outside talking to her friend where I overheard her saying, "Could you read those Margaret? I couldn't read those."
"Did you vote?" Margaret replied.
"Well, I voted for someone." her friend nodded.
Margaret patted her hand and said, "Good. Did I hear that man say we can't vote for Republicans? I think I voted for some Republicans." They walked out.
The number of things wrong with that situation was too great to compute. I reflected on the amount of time I had spent, the e-mails I had sent, and in one case a phone call, just to get all the information on all the local candidates so I knew I was voting for who would best represent my interests. Then I thought of these ladies. At first I experienced a brief moment of spiteful partisanship where I silently thought, "Well, thank God they're Democrats at least." Then I mentally slapped myself and realized that didn't matter at all.
What if these confused women come back in November to vote the Democratic line and can't even figure out which levers they are throwing? What if they wind up voting for Bush simply because they can't comprehend the mechanics of the process and there is no person there acting as a volunteer who is qualified to help them?
I cast my votes and left the polling place a much sadder man.