Saturday, April 28, 2012

I voted twice

I just voted today right after the polls opened.  And I voted twice.  As the old saying goes: "Vote early and vote often."

The first time I voted in this election cycle was a few weeks ago.  It was at the courthouse.  It was very solemn.  I think most of us know the ritual.  After being checked by a volunteer, I was escorted behind a curtain (adorned in the National Colors).  And in total privacy with the serious air of a sacramental confessional, I voted using the computer.  This was a "primary" election held under the auspices of the government.  Polls were open all day, and people even voted days in advance using "early balloting."

At that time, there was no campaigning close by, nobody seeking my vote.  In fact, there are laws against it.  Even wearing a candidate's tee shirt or button within so many feet of the polling place during the election is illegal.  There is a statue of Thomas Jefferson a few feet away from where this election took place.

And it didn't count!

At most, that "election" was a non-binding referendum.  In reality, it as more or less a poll.

Today, I voted for real - more or less, anyway.

This "election" was a "caucus" and was held at a Quality Inn and run by volunteers from a private club.  Voters had to be there between 8:30 am and 12:00 noon.  And this is the one that supposedly counts.  This is the one that will actually select delegates - which is to say, the people who will really vote.

There are two private clubs that run the real elections.  You get to join one or the other, but not both.  And if you don't join either one, you don't get to vote.  The private clubs (which are along the lines of the collegia in the Roman Republic/Empire) have a lot of behind-the-scenes politicking and arm-twisting that are unseen by the voting public.  The clubs are usually called "parties" - but they are so similar as to be wings of a common single party.  And like the Crips and the Bloods, the main difference between the two is that one is symbolized by red, the other blue.  And again, unless you join one of these clubs, you get no vote at all in the "primary" election - which determines the candidates that will appear in the "general" election in the fall.

So today's event was, in fact, the real election (the "caucus"), as opposed to the one from a few weeks back (the "primary").

There was more of a carnival feel to it.  Unlike the solemn (non-) election at the courthouse, there were no anti-campaigning laws.  People walked about in tee-shirts and carrying campaign material.  I approached the volunteer desk and gave my name and driver's license.  When I was asked for identification, I produced my Discover card.  It was a mistake, but I consider it more of a Freudian slip.

When she handed me my ballot, I reached inside my pocket and pulled out the little case holding my reading classes, and the volunteer gasped and said she thought I was pulling out a knife.  What a sad country we have become!  Anyway, my wife and I each took the yellow piece of paper, and it was explained to us that we could either choose 25 names on one side of the ballot, or pick a slate on the other side of the ballot.

I took my ballot and looked for a place to fill it out.

I found a window ledge (overlooking the motel parking lot) so I could fill it out.  There was no little confessional booth draped in the National Colors.  As I was getting ready to vote, an older lady approached me and asked me if I knew who I was going to vote for.  I told her that I did.  She stuck her tongue out at me.  At this point, I was waiting to see if the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat would be entering stage left.  I asked her: "Why did you stick your tongue out at me?"  She replied: "I wanted you to vote for me.  If you change your mind, I'm on slate..." and she gave me the number.

I went back to the window ledge overlooking the Quality Inn parking lot so I could exercise my sacred franchise.  Needless to say, I did not support the Geriatric Lingual Slate, even with her continued yammering at me while I voted.

Afterward, Grace and I looked for where to place our "ballots."  There were cardboard boxes with holes cut in the top, kind of like something out of The Little Rascals.  A man approached us before we deposited them in the box.  He wanted to see our ballots.  He was some kind of Party volunteer, and he said he wanted to make sure that we hadn't voted on both sides of the ballot (which would have spoiled the ballot).  I found that a little odd.  Of course, I have no idea what happens to all of those paper ballots once everyone has left and volunteers from the private club start pulling them out.  I can't honestly say that I have much confidence in the process.

And that is how the Party (both of its wings) selects candidates for the "general election."  The fate of the republic hangs in those cardboard boxes with such characters that I saw today.

I'm reminded of my friend the history buff, who has a century-old ballot box from Texas that still has the lock on it and the "ballots" inside.  I'm also reminded of Communist elections, in which you can vote for any candidate as long as it is the only one on the ballot, and you can belong to any party so long as it is the Communist Party.

A lot of people believe we have a democratic form of government.  Fewer still believe we live in a republic.  I think we are really operating under some kind of bureaucratic apparatchikocracy (or a political version of the System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether) - though from what I saw today, maybe the best term is idiocracy.

The part that made the most sense was my son Leo with his toy light saber hoping to defend the republic.  I guess both of us have a healthy imagination.

Vote early, and vote often!  It's an eye-opening experience.

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