Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Santa Monica, CA. 7 AM. I'm standing in line with fellow citizens who have come to cast their votes in the presidential primaries. I’m standing and standing and standing…and standing. The line is inching very slowly down a staircase just inside the door of the little gray church on the corner of Lincoln and Washington (a rather appropriate intersection for a polling place, no?). “There must be more people ahead of me than I thought,” I muse silently to myself. “But still…why is it taking so long to move even the tiniest bit? I mean, really…take your ballot, fill in the bubbles and be on your way.” Is it possible that some are still undecided as they enter the voting booth – still weighing the candidates and propositions even with ballots in hand?
I finally make it to the bottom of the stairs and now have a view of the front of the line. I see the problem. Can someone explain to me why of all the individuals facilitating the voting process, the one who appears to be the most able and quick-witted of the bunch is handing people their ballots (the job that requires neither thought nor dexterity), while the most (although seemingly sweet and grandmotherly) elderly and most likely to – at any given moment – go blind, senile, or possibly just die, has been commissioned to check people’s names on the roster? Upon reaching her, each person must state his or her name and then immediately repeat it at least once, as the Roster Lady is clearly hard of hearing. Once she discerns the name, she flips through the roster in so haphazard a manner that we all question her grasp of the alphabet. She then uses a ruler to help the voter more easily identify the line where he/she is required to sign. Between finding each name, however, she either drops the ruler on the floor or forgets about it when she starts flipping pages to find the next name, thus burying it somewhere in the roster book. So, before each voter can sign there comes the inevitable “What happened to my ruler?” Those of us in line quickly learn to pay attention so that when it is our turn to step forward, we will be prepared to state the whereabouts of the ruler.
Love it. Just another tribute to the efficiency of government. Let’s hear it for the American way.
When I finally reach the Roster Lady and perform the name/ruler ritual, she announces, “You are registered as a Republican.” I proudly say, “Yes, ma’am,” as all the other voters present turn to gaze upon the alien in their midst. She says, “That means you can only vote Republican.” She had given each of the Dems before me the same reminder – that they had to vote within their party. But she speaks to me as if she expects me to protest. Instead I say, “Fine by me,” and make my way past the shiny Democratic booths to the lonely cobweb-covered Republican booth in the corner.
As I head back up the stairs, and out to the street, I can’t help but think how liberating it feels to vote – even in Los Angeles – and how blessed I am to live in “this the greatest nation on God’s green earth!”