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Voting broke my heart a little this time around. It wasn’t the election itself, or the incessant arguing of my hyper-opinionated political friends or even the uselessness of voting in New York state. It wasn’t the meaning or outcome behind voting, but the very act of it.
Anyone who’s cool enough to know me on Facebook (you’re welcome) knows that I became a bit upset over the revelation late Monday night that New York revamped their voting process. Well, maybe not process—let’s call it the voting mechanism.
In my expert opinion—it’s OK, I’ve voted before, clearly that makes me an expert—we’ve moved in reverse with our voting.
We’ve gone from solid American built booths with tons of switches, a curtain, secondary tape roll that backs up the tallied votes, adjustable height for the handi-awesome and (my personal favorite) the giant effin’ lever.
Now what do we have? A scantron sheet you fill out behind some kid’s leftover science fair poster board before you scan it through some other machine—no, not that machine, the other one; what, you didn’t see the different district numbers painted on the bottom of the machine instead of clearly marked at the top to prevent you from trying to scan your ballot several times through the wrong machine?
The Board of Elections Geriatric Brigade isn’t allowed to touch or look at your ballot, so when you have a problem—and this is me we’re talking about, so there will be a problem—they spend longer saying loudly, “I haven’t touched your ballot, sir” then they do actually getting the machine to scan the ballot.
Let’s all be honest here, you can swear up and down all you want Grandma Voting Booth, but when my ballot doesn’t even fit inside the ‘privacy folder’ do I really give a shit if you glance at my ballot when you help me scan it? And the ‘privacy screen?’ You know, the aforementioned science project poster board? You really telling me that works?
Also, who cares? You probably don’t even remember where you live, you’ve been at the community center so long, am I really concerned with you seeing who I’m voting for?
Look, we had awesome voting machines, better then any I saw during election coverage. Hanging chads? I think not. Stupid Florida, get with the times. Paper ballots?
New York had the greatest voting booths in the world, the envy of leverless voters everywhere. And now look at us. Using paper. Coloring ovals. Feeding my ballot into a scanner while Old Lady Election yells, “Yeah, stick it in there! Like a vending machine dollar! All the way! Sir, I have not looked at your ballot!”
I’d prefer never again to hear that phrase or any variation of it from an old lady. Unless I’m an old man. Even then it’s gross, it’s just all sagging skin and—
So, later on election night, Commander Riker told me the reason behind this de-evolution of our voting process is that the company that manufactured these voting booths went belly up. Then apparently burned all the manuals, schematics and at the point of bankruptcy all existing machines simultaneously vanished from the face of the earth rendering reverse engineering impossible.
With repair somehow no longer an option the machines had to be retired. What? There’s really no one out there who can repair these machines if they break down? Granted, New York State is the last state to stop using these machines, but they’ve been around since about 1900, I’m thinking we can make these levers work.
And it’s important that we make them work. Mostly for nostalgic and emotional reasons. Like throwback jerseys.
The Board of Election’s strategy for greater voter turnout should mimic the tobacco industry’s philosophy: ‘hook ’em while they’re young.’
That’s what these voting booths did without even realizing it!
Apparently I’m pretty lucky in that my circle of friends are all hyper-opinionated sometimes legitimately informed and always highly vocal political experts. They’re passionate about the political process and understand the importance of voting. Also, they’re passionate about long-winded diatribes with a great deal of wild gesturing.
The point is, I don’t doubt that everyone of these living room pundits went to vote with their parents. This creates little kid participation if you have those old voting booths.
Think about it—you take a kid with you to vote, just try to stop them from pulling that giant red-handled lever. They don’t need to understand what’s going on, so the age of the child isn’t important. There is a lever and they get to pull it. That’s all that matters.
Even not understanding the complete scope of what you were doing, there was the comprehension that you were taking part in something incredibly important. And you were getting to pull a giant lever. And possibly get a soda.
That’s what I realized Monday night when we started talking about the absence of those old voting booths. We all had variations of the same story. Voting was as ingrained in our memories as watching the Buffalo Bills lose a butt-load of Super Bowls, as sitting glued to CNN during the first Gulf War, or Bill Clinton play the sax when he won his first term.
You go to vote with your parents, don’t understand what the big deal is, but this seems pretty cool. And there’s a pop machine. Play your cards right kid, and you could be walking out of here with a soda.
Your parents go through the boring crap—what’s your name, sign this paper, blah blah blah. Then you go to the booth. Lever goes, Wizard of Oz curtain closes and it’s showtime.
If you’re lucky that’s when they lift you up and tell you which switches to click. You’ve had practice at this by the way, you remember that board in pre-K with the different locks and latches? You crushed that. Mini-levers in a voting booth. Just give me a boost, I got this.
That isn’t even the best part. Flipping the mini-levers? Take it or leave it. No, the best part is when you’re good to go. There may be a countdown to build excitement, a drum roll, but it isn’t required. The best part is when you get to grab the giant lever and boom! Votes are counted, there’s a lot of loud clicking sounds that are pretty cool, and the curtain is opened! There’s that last push at the end to get the lever to fully engage, remember? You underestimated it at first; but then you slam it into place and those curtains open.
Don’t forget, once that curtain opens, you get to turn around and gloat to the next person in line. That may or may not be your brother and other parent. Doesn’t matter.
You stare them down, take pride in what you’ve just done.
You just opened a curtain.