A few voting observations

After waiting for about an hour, maladr1n and I were just about to make it into the library. We heard there was an even longer line inside, but it’s a small library. A poll watcher, who wasn’t allowed to announce his party (Democratic) leanings, picked us out and we got to chatting. I never caught his name, but he said he was a screenwriter and former theater disciple from L.A. I’ll call him Brian, because he seemed like a Brian to me.

Brian told us the line was an estimated four hours long, and we were only an hour into that. Brian deliberately said that he wasn’t trying to dissuade us from voting (he didn’t know who we were voting for), and he didn’t want us to leave the line, but he thought we should know. It was a weird moment of conflict, partially because we knew that all the precincts would be open on Tuesday. A few factors made it into our decision to stay.

Brian was canvassing earlier in the week around one of the projects. Apparently, a (Republican) canvasser had already made it through that territory. One resident said that she was going to vote the next day; at 6 a.m. at the YMCA around the corner. She had written the information down from what the canvasser told her. There are only 7 early polling stations open – all libraries and none of them are open anywhere near 6 a.m. Brian let her know. Other people Brian had spoken to in those projects were told that they had to have two forms of picture ID, so they thought they couldn’t vote, because they only have one. Brian let them know the skinny as well.

On Saturday, Buddy Johnson, our appointed (Republican) supervisor of elections, was at the polling station that maladr1n and I were at today. Brian was confronted by Johnson, who told him that Brian couldn’t bring free bottled water inside the library for people who were waiting to vote in what was a six hour line. When he asked why, Johnson’s answer was, “These people are adults. If they want to stay, they can. How do I know you’re not handing that water out and advocating a party vote at the same time?” His response was, “follow me around and watch me pass out the water.” Finally, Brian got a poll watcher from the other party to help him distribute the water.

It was becoming clear to me and maladr1n that the voting hijinks were already in gear. Should we gamble that Nov. 2 would be a better day with more polling places and lose the hour we already spent in line? The percentage of early voters was minimal compared to the potential registered voters who were going to be at the polls tomorrow. Given what we already knew, and my sheer skepticism for the voting system and those flimsy fucking touchscreens, if something was going to go down at the hands of voting terrorists, er… Republicans… er… “voting error”, it was going to happen tomorrow when more votes were at stake. If my precinct goes down, I’d be screwed and kicking myself for not casting my vote when I was already in line the day before and had a choice of where I could vote.

One thing was clear: Buddy Johnson wasn’t exactly encouraging people to stick it out, and other people were trying to prevent people from voting. I don’t care what their denomination is, but if my staying there was my middle finger to them, then I was sticking it out. And from the looks of it, I’m impressed to say that I was not alone. I don’t think I saw even a handful of walkouts.

Our polling station is in a predominantly poor and black area of town, which describes many of the people that joined us in line. There was diversity, both of class and race, and that was very encouraging. But there weren’t many people who were, how shall I say it, owners of yachts? (maladr1n saw one guy walk – white, upper middle class in a tie.) We waited behind a couple who were both barely voting age and had a kid who was just old enough to walk. It was their first time voting. The guy behind us was middle aged, born in Cuba, spoke very good English and lost at least half a day of work. I saw little old ladies and guys who looked like they were gangbanging down the street. I don’t know who they were voting for, but every one of them had learned a lesson somewhere down the line, and they were all damn sure that they were going to vote.

I’ve never seen this country so divided, at least not in my lifetime. I’ve never seen voting lines like this, at least not outside of third world nations. And I’ve never seen such a group of people with nothing in common but their citizenship, packed tightly in a small room for three hours (not to mention sweating their nads off outside for God knows how long) behave so well, so calmly, and so collected with such understanding.

And God bless the Brians at that place. Every worker there was cool and thanked us for waiting five hours. There were shipments of complimentary pizza, some guy showed up to play his sax for the crowd outside, and eventually someone brought large grills to cook free hot dogs and burgers. There was free water, soda, cookies, and at one point our Brian came in to hand everyone mints and to thank everyone for sticking it out. I don’t know who paid for it, but those people were the angels of the day. And they did it, because they know how important this vote is.

So, my advice for those who haven’t voted yet: show up early. Bring a book, a walkman, whatever you need. I highly recommend going with a friend. Every vote is a message that you do care, that the system can’t afford to deteriorate, that the citizens won’t be walked over by those who have the power to do it, regardless of who holds those reins. If you have to take the day off work, please do it. I know it sucks, but it’s one day, and hopefully the message you send will prevent you from having to take that day off ever again. It’s a small price in the long run. Just remember, there are those who want you apathetic, ignorant, or negligent. Please don’t give them that power. Vote.

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