Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Does my vote count?

Last night I voted. I voted in Hoboken's city council elections. It was the first time ever I voted and felt the sting of the carelessness of our system. I am an election lover. It is like Christmas Day to me...or the World Series, take your pick. Now, city council elections in Hoboken do not quite stir my blood as kicking out the Republican majority in November, 2006, but the act of voting I still believe is beautiful. For the past two election cycles I worked as an election monitor to stop the Republican machine of voter fraud and the suppression of the black vote.

Yesterday, however was altogether new for me. My partner and I were late, voting at 7 pm before the polls close at 8pm. We had a friend in town to have dinner, hurrying to our favorite restaurant, La Isla. But, we had to vote. From the moment we walked in we were treated as if we were a hindrance to the folks behind the tables. "Name!?" "Not at this table." The next table, I give my name: response "I don't need your name. I need your address." All five tables this occurred. At one table I was accosted by an ornery, elderly woman who told me: "You probably don't vote here." I said: "I have voted here the last seven election cycles." Her response was not, well let me check the book again, it was: "How could you? You are not in the book!" My partner, was also accosted with the same behavior, "well I don't remember you." I got the attention of the room by saying: "I have been to every table now, what do you want me to do?" My partner almost on the verge of walking out.

A Latina woman who was clearly in charge grabbed us...and slowed down the process and we were finally able to vote, not before, however my partner declared: "I am ready to walk out and not vote." It occurred to me as it has before, the carelessness by which we treat our fragile democracy. It is entrusted with those who have to work the polls. Elderly women, living on the scraps of social security, single moms home with kids jumping at the chance to make $50 per day. In November, 2006 I worked the polls for fourteen hours as did the elderly women from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm. These workers did not receive food until 5:00 pm. No wonder people are cranky.

Why would we treat our democracy so carelessly? We should treat it as the absolute privilege it is to vote in a clean, smooth transition of power without bloodshed. We should make sure that poll workers are trained and well paid to ensure that our elections are fair. We should encourage all of us to get active in the process and maybe someday like in the French Presidential election we will have 85% of the citizens actually voting instead of 1/2 the voting populace as we do in America. Because without a fair vote we do not have a democracy.

By the way, it is lucky my partner and I did not walk out. Our candidate won by two votes. There will be a run-off on June 12th. I hope they remember us.
Got to for more on our fragile democracy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I rmember voting in Rutherford, and normally, no always, it was older people, who were normally pretty friendly, but it was Rutherford and not Hoboken. A lot of the people in Rutherford knew each other, and always did it, so they seemed to actually enjoy it.