Okay, I think I need to embrace the fact that I’m not going to be thinking about anything besides the election for the next few days, so my radio is tuned to Air America, I’m following all the political blogs, and right now, it’s hard not to think about voter suppression/voter registration issues.
These somewhat scattered thoughts were inspired by Kathleen’s decision to post the content of a MoveOn.org letter about voting rights, Kari’s comment to that post, and Alex’s assignment to his students that they write about their voting experiences (which I’ve rather freely borrowed), and conversations about voter registration controversies (including people calling voters to tell them their polling location has changed–thanks to bitchphd for the link). For many reasons, I find the act of voting here in the United States to be a rather mysterious process (I can’t think of the right term, but that just about gets it). I think that part of that is due to the act of voting itself. You go to a public place–a church, synagogue, community center, or school, usually–but when you get there, you go to a “private” space, a booth with a lever or, in Georgia’s case, a computer screen, to cast your ballot. I know that one of the goals here is to protect voters from having someone “looking over their shoulder” while they vote. In the past, I’ve experienced the voting booth as communicating that voting is a “private” expression of individual preference for a given candidate or ballot initiative. Once you vote, you give the ballot to a poll worker and it disappears. And with Georgia’s no-paper trail electronic voting, there are no visible, material traces of your vote. Your “ballot” looks exactly like it did when you took it into the booth, just an opaque piece of plastic with a small computer chip.
The result of all this mystery: people don’t really talk that much about voting, a point that Alex makes in his entry on this topic, and I’d imagine that this lack of conversation leads to a lot of the misconceptions that many Americans have about our rights as voters, or about election rules in general. So, I’d like to formalize Kari’s suggestion that voters use their blogs to document their experiences, hopefully making this mysterious process just a little more transparent.
So, this is a call for people to write about their experiences in the voting booth in their blogs or in the comments to this entry. If you write about your voting experiences, link to this entry (or not), but after the election crisis in 2000 in Florida, I think we need more transparency regarding the election process, not less.
Update: If you’re not sure where to vote, check MyPollingPlace.com. rusty, who voted early, reports on his experience, which included some fairly long lines (a good omen for high voter turnout on election day, I’d imagine).
Update 2: It looks like lots of people here in Georgia are joing the ranks of advance voters. David has a great narrative abot taking his daughters to the polls.
In the comments, Jen mentions that her parents rarely discussed politics with her when she was a child, and I realized that I had a similar experience. My mom, especially, wouldn’t tell me how she voted, and she’s still uncomfortable talking about it. In some sense, I think that silence has probably contributed to my perception of the process as being a mysterious one. Oh, and while I’m linking, here’s Steve’s experience.
This was one of the most moving, meaningful days of my life.
My job is to get people to the polls and, more importantly, to keep them there. Because they’re crazily jammed. Crazily. No one expected this turnout. For me, it’s been a deeply humbling, deeply gratifying experience. At today’s early vote in the College Hill district of East Tampa — a heavily democratic, 90% African American community — we had 879 voters wait an average of five hours to cast their vote. People were there until four hours after they closed (as long as they’re in line by 5, they can vote).
Here’s what was so moving:
We hardly lost anyone. People stood outside for an hour, in the blazing sun, then inside for another four hours as the line snaked around the library, slowly inching forward. It made Disneyland look like speed-walking. Some waited 6 hours. To cast one vote. And EVERYBODY felt that it was crucial, that their vote was important, and that they were important.
And there were tons of first time voters. Tons.
[...] The best of all was an 80 year old African American man who said to me: “When I first started I wasn’t even allowed to vote. Then, when I did, they was trying to intimidate me. But now I see all these folks here to make sure that my vote counts. This is the first time in my life that I feel like when I cast my vote it’s actually gonna be heard.”
To see people coming out — elderly, disabled, blind, poor; people who have to hitch rides, take buses, etc — and then staying in line for hours and hours and hours… Well, it’s humbling. And it’s awesome. And it’s kind of beautiful.