Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Torture at the Voting Booth

Despite a hectic day yesterday, I managed to scurry out of work at 2:30 p.m. to vote. I took a bus to my voting precinct, which in my case was a tiny garage down the street from my apartment building. Four voting booths and a single table were crammed among hanging tools and bicycles. Kind of dangerous, actually, since a frustrated voter might conceivably snatch a wrench hanging from the wall and go on a rampage. I personally considered it, anyway.

For I was trapped behind a woman who was obviously The Dumbest Voter in San Francisco. I knew we were all in trouble the minute she approached the table and opened her mouth.

DVSF: My name's Nelson, ___ Nelson, but you won't find it on your list.
ELECTION WORKER: You're not on the list.
DVSF: Why not? I voted here last year!
EW: You're not on the list ... let me ...
DVSF: I've lived in this neighborhood for four years. I can't believe I'm not on the list!
EW: Let me give you a provisional ballot. Fred, where are the provisional ballots? Provisional ballots! The ones in the red folder. Provisional ...
(He leaves table. Line behind me lengthens.)
DVSF: I've lived in this neighborhood for four years.
EW: (returns) Now here is a provisional ballot. This is what you fill in, then ...
DVSF: I know what a provisional ballot is. I used one when I voted here last year.
(Crowd groans.)
EW: That doesn't mean this is your precinct. You can vote by provisional ballot anywhere in the city.
DVSF: I looked it up. The computer told me that I'm supposed to vote here.
EW: May I ask your address?

Then (this really happened) the Dumbest Voter in San Francisco's husband turns up.

DVSF: You're here!
EW: Name?
DVSF husband: ____ Nelson.
DVSF: You won't find his name on the list. We're not on the list, can you believe it? We've lived in this neighborhood for four years.
EW: May I ask your address?
DVSF husband: _____ Clayton.
EW: This precinct only goes to 1000 Clayton. You might be in another precinct.
DVSF: But the computer said 265 Fake Street Name.
(crowd groans)
EW: This is 147 Fake Street Name.
DVSF: Oh. I was walking down the street and this was the first polling place I saw. Does this mean I can't vote here?

Oh, we should have been so lucky. Instead she and her husband took copious time filling out a provisional ballot while I went into a booth and wrestled with a 10-page ballot with a zillion propositions.

Maybe next year I'll adopt her strategy: Leave my apartment on election day and walk down the street until I find a polling place. Then, when my name isn't on the list, shout, "But I've been in this neighborhood for two years!"