Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This Is Why People Don't Vote

Nassau County residents faced a decision: should we pass a referendum to fund the building of a new stadium where Nassau Coliseum stands over the next several years by raising taxes anywhere between 14 and (who can really say how much due to a reliance on revenue sharing) after the county did not allow the owner to complete the project on his own with his own money as he first proposed?

This post is not about the referendum and whether or not it should pass. This post is about the absolute absurdity that probably makes people not want to vote: the local polling place.

I went with my dad to our polling place. We walked into the school building and he went to go into the gym, where the voting booths are usually set up. I was like, wait, this sign has an arrow that way. So we found that the voting was in a different room, the all-purpose room that had air conditioning, however meager it was.

A woman who was working there stood in the doorway, carrying on a conversation with two people. She waved us to go into the room. That was helpful. I asked my dad, What table do we go to? The guy at the first table behind me asked what village we were from.

That's an odd question usually, but for this election, several polling places were closed and people had to go vote at other places they normally didn't have to travel to. So I said, this one, we live around the block. He sent us to the first table.

Behind the first table was a woman who was maybe 157 years old and another woman at the end of the table who was wearing giant old lady BluBlockers. My dad asked, Do we sign in here? She asked where we lived. We both said the town. She asked, What street? We both said the street. She answered, No, I asked what street!

I stopped breathing for a minute. Was this actually happening? My dad leaned over the table, practically in her face, and repeated what he said. She was like, Oh, no, we don't have that. Then she crossed her arms and sat there. That's helpful. Granny BluBlocker then told us to try the table behind her.

The table behind her had a woman and a man, both of middle age, waiting for us. My dad and I, at the same time, asked very loudly if they had our street. The woman looked at some sort of map and told me yes, they did. The guy leaned over the table at my dad and said, What street?

Are. You. Serious.

I repeated the street as did my dad and the woman who had said yes then shook her head no. The guy started looking it up. I pulled my dad to the next table.

At the next table were five women. I was like, Please tell me you have my street. They did. The youngest woman asked for our name and told me to sign the book. My dad followed suit. Then they handed us a piece of paper in a folder. What the?

Apparently, we were voting by Scantron. I'd never voted this way so my dad and I went to the center of the room where they have partitioned cubbies for voters to scribble in the dots in secrecy. I began reading the instructions so we could both figure it out. I was like, It says to use the writing implement provided. I grabbed the pen on the chain in my cubby. My dad grabbed his chain and held up the end that had no pen on it. I was like, ok you have no pen. So he scooted into my cubby and I pointed to the choices he had at the top because it was a very confusing ballot.

The bottom left had a box of instructions in English. The bottom right had a box of instructions in Spanish. At the top center was the referendum in one box with English and Spanish mixed in and the voting line looked like

Yes/Si () No/No ()

Tell me that's not confusing.

So I pointed and said, yes or no, yes or no. Then my dad takes the pen and covers what he's writing with his other hand. I was like, Dad, I'm not looking! He put his ballot in his folder and then I voted and put my ballot in my folder.

Then the two of us stood there. We had no idea what to do next. One of the women from the table saw us standing around clueless and pointed to the machine behind her. We stood behind a man who was figuring out the machine on his own. Then we put my dad's ballot in. It scanned. Then mine. It scanned.

As we walked out, I was like, I'm really happy I came with you because I probably would have been too confused and walked out. He said, I'm happy too because they were not helpful at all. When my mom came home, I asked if she'd voted and then my dad chimed in, because everyone there is very helpful. I come to find out from her that these people are actually paid to do this.

So these people get paid to sit behind a table and not help you. That sounds about right. Chalk one up in the name of civic duty. Chalk one up in the name of stupidity. It's a wash.

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