Well, my friends, the election is just six days away. That means, following the most recent model, we only have about 50 days of election hell to go through. On to the fun!
My roommate, who, for the record, is from Palm Beach County, got his absentee ballot two weeks ago. Hoping for some divine intervention to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot, I took a look, and let me tell you this: Whomever Palm Beach hired for its ballot design in 2000 is still working and created yet another bea-uuu-tiful piece of work.
Let me try to describe this masterpiece to you. Here’s how you vote: After each candidate’s name is a broken arrow. To cast your vote, you must connect the arrowhead to the end with a freehand stroke of the pencil. If you mess up, better go get another ballot! This isn’t fraud, but it is asinine. My R.A. showed me his absentee ballot from Massachusetts. Its method of voting? Fill in the bubble. It’s a scantron. Maybe you feel confident enough in your motor skills that you could figure out both, but I’m pretty sure I could have worked out that butterfly ballot too. Don’t overestimate people. We need simple, not pretty, especially when democracy is on the line.
There’s more to worry about than stupidity, and I’m not just talking about a lack of a paper trail (I’m still convinced if I had cast a paper ballot in the primaries, Dean would be the nominee). I went to vote on day one of early voting. I waited in line for about an hour (take note, apathetic public. The line was an hour long 15 days before the election; just think what it’s going to be like a week from now). When it was my turn, I went up to the nice ladies at the laptops to get my information verified. Name, Patrick H. Gibbons. Check. Address, 3300 SW 34th Court, South Miami. Huh? I’ve never even been there, let alone lived there. In fact, it’s 20 minutes away from where about 900 of my closest friends and I really live. Everything was worked out and I got to cast my ballot, but I was this close from being disenfranchised, and I’m not even black!
But speaking of people who couldn’t vote, take my friend John. He registered to vote in the Breezeway in August, as presumably much of the University community did. If you’re like me, when you see people with clipboards registering people to vote, you assume that you’re going to be able to vote when you get to the polls. Surprise! There was nothing the election workers could do for him. He doesn’t get a say in democracy until 2006.
Moral of the story: You can’t protect against idiotic ballots, but you should make sure you’re registered, because apparently even Get Out the Vote campaigns don’t care if you are. Call 305-499-VOTE to make sure you’re on the rolls.
Patrick Gibbons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.