In case you’re looking for voter nightmares -- I just had the most fumigating experience of my voting career, and I am certain that my vote will NOT be counted.
For starters, I am a female, age 30, working professional who is clearly a target vote. Now, this may not matter in NYC because I support Kerry -- but it matters to me that my vote is counted; and it matters to me that we have a system in place that is efficient and fair.
Today I have less faith in our voting system than ever before.
I went to PS (Public School) 51 on 45th Street, a block away from my home, with my acknowledgement notice that I am registered to vote and my ID. I waited over two hours in the line, which took an additional 15 minutes to find the RIGHT LINE, to do my civic duty in one of the most imperative elections of my time.
When I got to the front of the line, despite my voter card in hand that clearly acknowledged that I am registered to vote in NYC, I was turned away and given a piece of paper to vote “stand by”. They couldn’t find my name in the “book” they said. What book? Why do you need a book? This paper was sent to me by the STATE OF NEW YORK – it reads exactly - I AM ELIGBLE TO VOTE EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. I asked several questions but the woman who was helping me spoke very little English and was not able to give me an answer as whether or not my vote would count and why I was not in the book.
Upset, I turned to the table to start filling out my stand by ballot when I saw another poll volunteer that spoke English and I asked her if she could help me. She took one look at my voter card and told me that I was in district 90. She could only speak with people in district 91.
You can’t speak to me if I’m not in district 91?
I asked her if she could just answer a simple question about how my vote would be counted, and what "stand by" means; as I believe that I should be able to vote legitimately and not “stand by” and I want to make sure that I am aware of what the process is and if I’m doing the right thing. Perhaps this isn’t for me, as I am clearly and identifiably registered to vote.
This woman actually proceeded to hand me a voter registration card and told me to fill this out and drop in the mail to ensure I was registered to vote in the NEXT ELECTION.
Yes, she did say that, verbatim.
I was speechless and nearly in tears of the audacity and rudeness and lack of concern the select election staff was showing. The people around me, the 100s of people around me, were shaking their heads and looking at me with this sorry look of disbelief; aside from a select few who were also going through the same experience.
Finally, my last attempt to find out what a “stand by” vote was, ended with yet another staffer, who I stopped and acknowledged that he probably wasn’t allowed to talk to me because I was the wrong age, race, gender, party, district, precinct, WHATEVER -- but I begged him for a minute of his time. I kindly told him my situation; showed him proof of registration, and asked him how could I vote and make sure that my vote was counted. He shook his head and said I’m sorry, your name is not in the book and that means there was an error and there was nothing he could do.
At least he was honest.
The kind man told me to fill out the "stand by" paperwork and hand it to the vagrant looking man in the corner, who was angry and mumbling under his breath and couldn’t see out his left eye and had a trash can right next to him. He was the collector of the “Stand By” vote; the "coordinator" I was told.
I went up to this man and asked him VERY NICELY what he intended to do with all of these envelops sitting on top of his sweater (and the two that had fell on the ground) that were stacked in the chair next to him. He then pointed to his ball cap that read "coordinator" and told me it was none of my business. I asked again, VERY NICELY, how could I make sure my vote was counted and what he did do with the votes that were Stand By at the end of the day? Was there someone who collected them every hour? Who was this person? Where did these precious envelopes go and why am I the only one who cares?
He then got very rude and snide and whispered under his breath -- "You want your vote to be counted?….” and then started laughing. Quietly and weirdly, like he was dangling it in front of me and tempting me to get angry and risk my vote not being counted.
All I could think was – Is this a joke? Do I look Republican? Why is this so f---ing difficult?
At this time, in utter frustration and complete loss of faith in the entire process, I turned my “Stand by” envelope into the pile on top of the old man’s red sweater -- despite the fact that I have PROOF that I am registered to vote in NYC. Quiet, disappointed and ashamed of our system, I walked out of PS 51 in disbelief.
Today, I have no reason to have faith in the electoral process. I already feared the efficiency of the 1920’s voting machines (wild!) the moment I walked in to the polls -- but who knew that not being able to enter one was going to be my biggest concern of them all.
And I wonder what happened with my envelope of carefully selected individuals. I wanted to vote for the President.
I hope I’m alone with this experience, but I fear I am not. Please contact me if you need to, I am happy to speak out on my disappointment and lack of faith from today’s experience.
(who happens to be...)
Vice President, 5W Public Relations