Maurice’s Review: Finger condoms! What will they think of next? I really needed one today when I got gas and had to tap the on-screen buttons. I’m sure they disinfect that screen every month.
I cast my first ballot in 1974. I don’t remember it at all. Some elections are like that. Not this one. More trees have died in the name of changing no one’s mind via mail-out campaign materials than in any other election in my lifetime. The commercials on television are so ubiquitous in North and South Carolina (yes, we get to be annoyed by both states), all the other advertisers are pouting because there is no air time left for them. I never thought I’d miss seeing those spots for personal injury lawyers (aka ambulance chasers). I crave a good phony litigious victim; they are by comparison much less cringe-worthy than every political campaign commercial.
If one didn’t know much about our politics, say someone who just landed from some foreign planet fully immersed in our language, they would have to believe each and every person running for each and every office should be immediately indicted for criminal activity, or at the very least, be ostracized for their deep moral failings. I believe pretty much nothing politicians say about one another and only a tiny bit of what they say about themselves. Our culture surrounding elections is one of shameful finger pointing and character assassination.
Thankfully we have groups like The League of Women Voters and others like them who can tell us what each candidate really has done in the community and legislatively. Want to know how a candidate voted on benefits for veterans, drug-pricing regulations and healthcare insurance? You can look at the bills online to see who voted which way and then write your senator to ask why nothing good ever happens. My husband and I have received lots of bullshit letters in response to our queries and concerns over the years. I like keeping them so I can fantasize about sending copies to the senator’s great grandchildren someday. See what a no-account shit your grandpa was! Climate change was real!
I’m not likely to sway anyone politically. I do my research, cast my vote, bitch at my legislators and go back to watching television after the election is over. People will vote in the way they wish because it’s usually an emotional response, not an intellectual one. Few people read the bills or look to see how their cherished party members voted on something which may have an effect on their own lives. I have read only four bills I cared about (their synopsis because these puppies are super-long and ridiculously complicated). One of them is currently in jeopardy and the outcome will definitely affect me and my family.
So I voted. Last year I hopped off the bus at the terminal downtown and crossed the street to an early polling place. No waiting necessary at 8:30 in the morning. This year was wholly different, as I have stated. After getting numerous absentee ballot requests from both Republicans and Democrats and every sort of local voting rights group, we sent ours in to the Board of Elections. We received our ballots in September and my husband and I filled them out, signed for each other on the envelopes and drove those ballots to the county office, where they were being collected by actual humans.
I had to fill out a form which stated that I dropped off my ballot. The pen dried up a bit on the part where I printed out my name, which left the L at the end of my first name a bit skimpy. No problem, the very capable election assistant gave me another pen and everything proceeded with calm (hers, not mine) and proper administrative completion. My name would now be taken off the “live” election rolls so that no one else could vote under my name. And, I could go back to my computer and track my ballot’s trip through the election process! I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I got an email stating that my ballot was accepted! The end of that process felt significant and exhilarating. I would not have to stand in any lines on voting day!
When October 13 rolled around, my Facebook page blew up with early voting stories out of Texas. Usually I see the “I voted” post, proclaiming the exercising of one’s right. This year these posts were accompanied by the details, good and bad, of the battle of the ballot! Texas seems to be having the most controversy in this election, with drop-off locations scandalously limited to one per county, legal skirmishes over drive-through voting and long, long lines. My friends in two other states, Washington and Oregon, stated that all of their elections are conducted by mail and if you were worried about the delivery of ballots, you could drop yours off at designated spots.
California is having some drama, with the mantling and dismantling of fake drop boxes. Friends there are driving their absentee ballots to an in-person drop off location. New Jersey is another state that has relied on mail-in or drop-off ballot casting. Official collection boxes are heavily secured and voters there don’t have to wait in long, long, long lines. I like that! My sister-in-law dropped off the family ballots at the police station, but forgot to give a friendly wave to the security camera.
My friends in Texas have had a mixed-bag assortment of experiences. The first day of early voting there saw 10,000 voters per hour! I find that amazing, and indeed several friends had to wait in long lines with other masked voters. Only one friend had to deal with unmasked voters and said it was the most unsafe she had felt throughout the pandemic. One friend in the Dallas area was discouraged by full parking lots and a line around the building. My former yoga teacher made her voting experience fun. She waited an hour, voted, then “woo-hoo-ed” when she hit the send button. Voting in Houston is by electronic screen, for which a finger condom was supplied to each voter. She mentioned that the condom made a cute, little balloon. This observation made me happy. After its very important task was finished, it deserved to be repurposed into a tiny instrument of celebration!
The second day of early voting was easier on the legs. Most folks had little to no waiting time and were through quickly. One Houston friend noted that while everyone wore masks, they were required to pull down the mask behind a plexiglass screen to verify their resemblance to their photo id, but it was quick and she was not too bothered by it.
Here in NC, the official complaint has been: I didn’t get an “I voted” sticker! Perhaps funds were diverted from stickers to pay for all that stinky hand sanitizer. There are signs posted at the polling places warning that no weapons are allowed, with a graphic of a gun and a knife. One friend noted that a guy in line ahead of her had a huge knife in a sheath on his belt and she wondered what the reaction would be when it was time for him to enter the building. There was no reaction, they simply let him in. I’m not certain what the criteria is for making a fuss, but there was no trouble and everyone got to cast their votes in peace.
A dear friend in Houston went to vote along with her young adult daughter. She described this ritual as a real bonding experience for them. Similarly, a friend here in NC took her baby daughter along with her to the polling place. She wants her daughter to grow up knowing how important every election is since there was once a time when mothers and daughters did not have the privilege of voting. She looks forward to the day when they can cast their votes together and change the world. I am certain they will.
Voting in the year of infamy,
Guest Editor Maurice likes commas in those long, winding sentences of mine. I’m not quite sure what he means. He’s a bit sensitive about public touch screens, so it’s nice that NC voting is by pen and paper ballot!