Voting today at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn was pretty straightforward – thank God I lucked out with the parking! – but of course, it wouldn’t be election day without a few shenanigans.
The last time I voted was in 2008, and since then, federal mandates have come into place that got rid of New York’s ancient cotton-gin style machines. Now, this is a good thing, since those machines were a bother, but the new system, which involves a scanner and with paper ballots that are bubbled in, certainly isn’t perfect. It makes for a much quicker voting experience – most of the wait was at the sign-in table, and there was only one person in front of us there – but the font on the ballots was *tiny*. I know the Board of Elections must have been hamstrung by budgetary constraints, but honestly, this was a long standing issue that probably was not going to ever get fixed without federal intervention. Fancy that, states-righters!
Still, many of the same problems outlined in the New York Times editorial I linked to above – which I remember reading ten years ago! – have not been solved. Short-staffing I don’t think was too bad, though things were a little hectic. The main problem was an almost complete lack of interpreters. I took my Colombian-born Spanish-only maid with me, and shockingly, in New York City of all places, there was no Spanish interpreter on hand at all! I ended up having to help her vote myself, which was very awkward for me. She told me that she wanted to vote for Cuomo and to confirm Obama’s agenda/Democratic across the board, so I did so for the federal elections, but ended up giving in to temptation and having her vote for Michael DiSanto in the State Senate race, even though I couldn’t really explain what the State Senate was. I’m not proud of it, even though DiSanto doesn’t have a prayer against Marty Golden; had I explained that DiSanto would help Cuomo though, I’d have a cleaner conscience.
But in any case, this experience is why having genuinely impartial interpreters is so important. The temptation to manipulate, even for a not-really-dishonest fellow such as myself, is very potent. I was told there would be Spanish, Korean, and Chinese interpreters there, but only saw one, who may have been Chinese or Korean. Frankly, lacking a Korean translator in this area of Brooklyn would be a complete disgrace, so I hope that isn’t the case.
Perhaps I put too much faith in the impartiality of the volunteers however. On the table walking in, I saw a handy-dandy little pamphlet, with blue text on a glossy-white background – font clearly chosen to evoke the actual ballot – imploring people to vote across the Democratic line. I was furious, and despite my better judgment, failed to make a scene about it. Instead, I ripped it up and chucked it in the nearest garbage can, where I saw several other such pamphlets. I can only hope that it was overzealous citizens leaving the pamphlets there, and that the volunteers had been throwing them out all day, and had just missed this one…I can only hope.
For the record, I voted Working Families or Democratic across the board – Mike McMahon was not nominated by Working Families, which tells you just how ‘liberal’ he is – and yes on reinstating the two-term limit and disclosure reforms. I encourage you all to do the same, but more importantly, to vote, period. Dodging jury duty, as the Board of Elections says, is no excuse:
Jurors are drawn from lists of state taxpayers and licensed drivers as well as from voter registration rolls. Do not give up your right to vote in the hope that you will avoid jury duty. Chances are, if you pay taxes or drive a car, you will still be called. Besides, serving on a jury is a privilege, one that permits you to personally stand up for all Americans’ right to a trial by a jury of their peers.
This is not ‘nam. This is the United States of America. We can vote.
Reports on your experiences would be much appreciated.