Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Lights Out

It was my first Election Day here in New York. Yep, my first time pulling the lever. I thought that was a metaphor, but no, there's really a lever -- a really loud lever. Back in Seattle, voting was kind of like taking a test. (Does everyone have their No. 2 pencil?)

The lines were long this morning around 10 a.m. in Manhattan, but that was to be expected. What really troubled me was how unhelpful the volunteers were. I mean, I understand that it's a pretty thankless job and that it's very long hours. But, with all the potential for voting mishaps, one would hope that this year's volunteers would be well-trained and doing their part to make this election as smooth as possible for as many people as possible. The polls had only been open for about 4 hours at this point. They have a long way to go -- until 9 p.m. tonight. The first disturbing conversation I overheard was a volunteer practically screaming at this older lady that she was in the wrong place to vote for her particular district and that she needed to "go down the street between Park and Madison or maybe it's Madison and 5th." Shouldn't she know where to direct people who are a bit off course? I hope that older lady found her way. I almost wanted to walk her down to make sure she got there OK. Of course, I still needed to vote. Finally, I made it to the front of the line. The woman in charge of Booth #1 was responsible for making sure people knew how to work the voting levers. She asked the girl in front of me if she knew how the booth worked and rolled her eyes when the girl said she didn't. I got a similar eye roll. So, we got a joint training session. The booth is a bit overwhelming. There are little mini-levers all over and one huge lever that locks in your choices. I wanted to make sure I did this right. I didn't want to be one of those people they talk about on the news that voted for two candidates by accident or something else that disqualified a perfectly good vote. However, when both I and my training buddy asked a few questions to clarify how we were supposed to use the booth, the volunteer responded simply, "Whatever you like." Over and over. It didn't matter what we asked.

"Do we pull down just one lever going across each row or one lever going down each column?"

"Whatever you like."

"John Kerry is listed twice. We just pull down one lever for him though, right?"

"Whatever you like."

"We can't vote for more than one candidate though, right? The machine will prevent that?"

"Whatever you like."

I'd like you to answer a question. That's what I'd like. Once I got inside, it seemed a bit more clear. And, I feel confident that John Kerry got my vote. I pulled the lever to lock in my choices, emerged from the booth feeling confident and then the lights went out. Yep, the power went out. This does not bode well for the rest of the voting day here in NYC. Let's just hope once we're through all the counting and re-counting and arguing that will inevitably ensue that we have a new President. Otherwise, it's lights out for the next four years...again.

~Lydia, Manhattan, NY

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