After almost two-years of hype and an hour-and-a-half of waiting in line before the sun came up, the election is over for me except for the hours and hours of exit polls and reports on results as the votes are counted. I don't know what the next four years have in store but I thought today was, kind of, a let-down. The republicans didn't capture Osama Bin Laden at the last minute and there were little conflict between either candidate by anyone but the opposing party's leaders-- and those were not even as bad as a couple of kids on the playground, calling each other names. Although, when this is all over we are going to have our country's first African-American President or Woman Vice-President, at the end of the day, I think this is going to look like an ordinary election, albeit one with a really, really big turnout.
I arrived at my polling place at 5:35 A.M. and found the top parking lot full. I still move pretty quick for an old guy but I lost a few places in line because I was unfamiliar with the shortcut between the buildings at the Catholic Church and went around the long way. I was number 79, as I found out later, but by the mass of voters started moving at 6:03, there had to be 300-350 people waiting because the line was longer than it gets for the Fish-Fry on Good Friday-- and they weren't even going to feed us.
I was expecting the process to take some time so I brought a book to read. I don't know if it was because I was not really that interested in the material so I was looking for reasons to stop reading and talk to people, that everyone else was jealous that I thought of bringing a book and they didn't so, in spite, they wanted to rudely interrupt me or a combination of the two things but I made little progress. The line, on the other hand, moved along through the serpentine path, made from arrows drawn on copy-paper with a Sharpee and masking-taped to the floor, at a surprisingly nice pace. In fact, I spent more time in line waiting for the polls to open than I did getting to the first election official-- that's were we grind to a complete stop.
The line, that was pretty unstable to begin with, collapsed when it reached the bank of four folding tables. Confusion set in with the voters-- most of which were more mature than I and had to have been through this a time or two before, and the officials-- who, I would be willing to bet, were even more mature than the voters, but acted as if it was their first time through an election, much less working at one.
I understand the reasons we need to have all of the checks and balances to keep everything on the up-and-up but I can't, for the life of me, figure out why they can't find a more efficient way to do it than with a handful of octogenarians, a couple of poli-sci majors and a part-time librarian to supervise them all.
There were four stations set up a labeled on the front of the table with the same Sharpee-written, masking-taped, copy-paper that they used on the floor, so there were many individuals that waited in line, only to find out it was the wrong one when they got to the front. Each station had an official that had to sign-off on something and then handover the form to an official at another station to sign-off on it. I assumed that this was because it was early and they weren't fully staffed yet but, I would think, that early in the morning and late in the day would be the busiest times so they would have the most help at that time.
When I finally made it to the third station, I was delayed again as the official that was confirming my status had to wait for "the Republican"-- like there is only one in the building-- to get out of the bathroom. The polls have been open for 23-minutes and this guy has already got to take a leak? We are in for a long day!
If you read this blog yesterday you would know that, going into this election, I was concerned with the average citizen's ability to choose our next leaders. After my experience today, I was even more disturbed by the idea that the governing bodies declaring the winners after we Americans exercise our right to choose. I find it impossible to believe that we can count on getting everything even close to right after witnessing the disorganization and incompetence from the officials at my polling place.
There was no one person in charge, as far as I can tell. There was a woman that was walking around aimlessly with a manual of some kind, though I don't think she was doing any good as the many people I saw asking questions were directed in several different directions with little or no, reasoning. I saw officials that were having trouble seeing, hearing and just plain understanding what was going on around them.
A good example of this was the two types of ballot-- one, a paper ballot that the voter marked their choices and then run it through a optical scanner that tallied the votes-- the other a touchscreen computer that printed out a paper receipt that was placed in the ballot box. For some reason, the officials had a hard time understanding this simple concept, or even being able to determine the difference between the two. The old guy that was actually handing out the ballots must have worked part-time at Schnucks bagging groceries because he kept asking voters if they wanted paper or plastic.
Technology is a great and powerful thing! So why are we filling in little ovals on a ballot with a number-two pencil? If Americans are not smart enough to follow instructions and remove all of the hanging chad from the back of their ballots-- the vote doesn't count... easy!
I jest but, in all seriousness, let's find a way to make this process easy, efficient and effective. If we have to throw some dollars at the election process we can use a percentage of the billions of dollars spent on all of the candidates campaigns across the U.S. to hire qualified, nonpartisan officials, purchase equipment, technology and training and communicate how it all works to the voters.
As I finish my article late on election day, John McCain is giving his concession speech. I am somewhat disappointed-- not because the man I voted for did not win, but because it wasn't really much of a race. Not even 30 of the 50-States have reported any results. I sincerely hope Obama can turn this country around but he has his work cut out for him.
I did my civic duty, woke up early to wait in a long line and deal with a much less than ideal situation to place my vote for President of the United States. You would still have a extremely difficult time trying to convince me that my vote mattered, but I will be happy to listen to your argument and I will leave it at that for now because I'm tired and I have to load some new designs to the SkeetzTeez cafepress shop... now that the election is over, shoppers will be looking for unique, custom Holiday Gifts!