What has happened to my polling place? The lines were not as long as I have seen them in the past, but inside the polling place was a zoo. It was stuffed with Polling Officials, Poll Watchers, Poll Helpers, Poll Lawyers, and Poll Standbys who’s job seemed to be well, to stand by. When I asked one lady with a clipboard who she was with she said, “I am attorney,” as if that was all I needed to know. I wanted to ask her if she had caught the ambulance yet.
The Other Party was out in full force, working the line (exactly 40 feet away from the polling place door so I was told) with their mock ballots (helpfully pre-checked with their candidates) and telling line dwellers to use the paper ballots because they are quicker, “that’s what I’m told,” they repeated. Never found out who told them, probably Ms Clipboard.
It seems that everyone’s last name falls between A-D in the alphabet. It was that line that snaked its way through the parking lot, while everything that came after E was express-checkout. If Bob Dylan had been in line this morning, he would have been majorly bummed.
I stood in line with my latest biography on Jack Kerouac. There’s something surreal about reading about old Jack while standing in line to vote, especially with the Other Party and their lawyers hanging about the doors and pointing your way through. Very helpful, those folks from the Other Party. Jack was Republican, you know.
When I grew closer to the table to check in, there was an Other Party Poll Watcher sitting behind the Poll Official with his own clipboard and thick list of what I presumed were registered voters’ names. The official would yell out a voter’s name so it could be heard clear to Buckingham County and the Other Party Poll Watcher would squint and look up the name and check it off his clipboard. A voter who was all ready at the table was complaining rather robustly about the Other Party Poll Watcher. I’d never seen one of those like that, looking over the should of the Poll Official, watching his every move.
Where was My Party anyway?
Then it was my turn. I handed the Poll Official my drivers license but he appeared not to be able to read. I looked down at the voter list and pointed to my name which was clear on my drivers license. “What is your name and address?” the Poll Official asked. I told him, keeping my voice low. The Other Party Poll Watcher seemed to be watching something else. The Poll Official handed me back my drivers license then proceed to shout my name all the way to Buckingham County as well. The Other Party Poll Watcher got out his pen.
“Do you have to shout my name?” I asked, rather irritated. I’d never seen such a thing. Voting in Fairfax County had always been a quiet affair, almost reverent, like entering into a democratic holy of holies. But as I looked around the room it was anything but reverent, more like an ant hill that just got kicked. The Poll Official looked at me blankly. Apparently that was not on his list of prepared responses and I bit my lip and took the paper he handed me and walked over to the next table where the next Poll Official asked me, “paper or machine?” Thinking about hanging chads, I said “machine,” despite what the Other Party had been yelling to us outside in line. He took my form and gave me a card and pointed to a lady in red and told me to get behind her.
Then a large crowd of people who got in line before I could reach the Lady in Red. There was a woman, a man, and several children and one card. They all went up to machine. I turned to the next Poll Official and asked, “how many people can vote off one card?”
“Just one,” the Poll Official replied.
I had wondered if there was a family rate, but the woman was just receiving “assistance” in voting. Hadn’t seen that before either. I looked around the room, still filled with Poll Watchers and Poll Officials and Poll Helpers and Poll Standbys and Ms Clipboard and wondered if this is what Oz felt like after a Tornado.
Or maybe today it feels just like Florida and Ohio.