Saturday, May 10, 2008

Adventures in Voting - Tyler, Texas Style

Well I did my civic duty this a.m. With effort. If I'd known it was going to be as much trouble, I would have shaved.

There's a mayor's race in this burg. I'm not really from around here, so it matters less to me than national and state races. There have been two mayors since I've lived here. I've never noticed them doing much, but the polling process is important, and my co-worker was supporting one of the candidates, so I figured I'd go cast a ballot.


We thought we'd drop in and punch the card or pull the lever or touch the screen as the case may be and then get groceries.

It's now about four hours later, and I have voted and picked up groceries, but it involved some heavy lifting. Not at the grocery store.

We should be home by eleven
We live on the cusp of a different school district, which matters in Texas, so we usually get shuffled over to another town to vote. All right usually we "early vote" at the court house. We didn't get a chance this time.

So we get our voter cards, and we go to the polling location where the road was under construction. There was not any real signage that explained how to traverse the gravel mounds and torn up lanes, so we had to drive by about three times before we figured out how to zigzag across the demilitarized zone into the parking lot.

I live in America - help me out
Not surprisingly no one was there except the poll captains.

"You can't vote for our mayor," said one poll captain.

Usually they have machines there with the appropriate ballots for all of the districts regardless of which city they've dragged you from. It looked like he had one machine today.

"I don't want to vote for your mayor," I said. "I want to vote in the city where I live. Usually I have to come here to do it."

After a little back and forth they decided to call the registrar.

"Yeah, we have two people here who want to vote, but they're not from this city. They can't vote for our mayor."

I was ready to say: "I'll stipulate to that point if we can just move on."

The poll captain got involved in a long conversation with someone in which precinct numbers, districts, road signs, and I think tea leaves and animal entrails, were discussed as deciding factors.

Finally he put me on the cell phone with the registrar.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't have a place for you to vote," came the voice from the ear piece. "She started rattling off some other verbiage which I interrupted with:


Suddenly I cared more about about voting in the mayor's race than just about anything else. Suddenly it was my raison d'etre.

"I'm feeling a little disenfranchised here," I said.

Didn't we hassle these issues out in this country over the last say 200 YEARS?!

I'm thinking OK I'll have to call the newspaper, the ACLU...there's probably some sort of voter's rights league. I was discovering what I had in common with an elderly Indiana nun.

I had other things planned for today--I was even reading research materials in the car--but you know standing up for the American way of life was starting to look like it would take precedence.

"You didn't let me finish," she said. "If you can come down to the registrar's office we will give you a paper ballot."

So she did have a place for me to vote. Personally, I would have opened with that, but I realize she didn't know she was talking to Lewis Black.

Livin' in America - hit me
So after a good bye in which the poll captain defended his signage, we drove from this other-town-up-the-road back to our house where we picked up a water bill in case there was any question then drove downtown. Not a short journey, especially given our dependency on foreign oil and the consequences. You may have experienced some of that too.

So, at last we go in the courthouse and get hit by snide sarcasm from the guard at the front door. A guy in uniform further making the voting process trying. What did I wake up in a Kafka novel this morning?

Anyway, we traverse that and get up to the office where I apologized for getting worked up on the phone.

They gave us the paper ballots and explained they'd fired up their GPS system and now knew where they should have sent us. Unfortunately they didn't have a call back number for the precinct captain's cell. They also noted that they had discovered a mistake in how about three houses in our neighborhood were designated and had corrected it.

We filled in the dots like the old SRA tests, exchanged pleasantries again and ta da, I'd completed my right and my privilege.

Gee, I hope my friend's candidate wins. I've got a few issues I want to write her about.


Charles Gramlich said...

Geeze. What a freaking fiasco. I've never had that much trouble but it would certainly make me angry enough to do something.

Lana Gramlich said...

Wow...Makes you wonder if they screw around with some people on purpose, y'know?
Sorry I've been AWOL, btw...I'm currently playing tour guide for a Canadian visitor.

Sphinx Ink said...

Ridiculous and outrageous. Definitely write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the fiasco. And let the local TV stations know about it, too.

Anonymous said...

Well? Did your candidate win? I voted for the crypto-zoologist. He got 64 votes out of the 6000 cast.

Sidney said...

Nah, my candidate lost, though ultimately democracy prevailed.

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