>2006: A Voting Odyssey


Oh, I am not happy with the state of our electoral affairs in the Illadelph right now. Yesterday I went on The Committee of 70’s website to find out whether I needed some sort of change of address form, and it said I did not if I moved more than 6 months ago (I moved two blocks nearly two years ago). The law had changed in 2005, it said. So I get up early, and my neighbor and I went to the new polling place in this shady school in the part of my neighborhood I never go into (as I rule, I do not walk west past my house. My neighborhood is not the worst in Philly, but it’s definitely not the best). They didn’t have my info. They didn’t have my neighbor’s either, so he had to grab his bike and go all the way to 5th and Wolf. I go to my old polling place, it moved. I go to that place (meanwhile I’m sweating and peeling off my coat and scarf) and they don’t have me either, they call the Committee of 70, they say I should go to 17th and Tasker and use a provisional ballot. UGH. At this point it was 8:58 so I had to get to work, so I decided I would come back after work.

Now I was not super psyched about walking in the shittiest part of my neighborhood alone in the dark, but I was determined to fucking vote. So I go in, at least one of the same women who I saw at 8am was still there at 6pm, she looked about 5 minutes away from falling asleep both times. I explain to them my situation and that I need a provisional ballot. The man working the polling station says, “What is a provisional ballot?” My jaw nearly dropped, but I was not going to leave. I helped him look through the polling kit, showed him what to do, read the forms for him, voted, and told the poll workers what to write, where to sign, etc. so that my vote would be counted. I also told him which people behind me could use the same procedure to their benefit, because I heard some people explaining to poll workers why they weren’t in the book and about to turn around and leave. Unfortunately I saw numerous people walk out before me for the same reason I had trouble, and can only assume there were dozens of people during the day at this particular polling place that were turned away for unresolved change of address issues today. This is not good. Do you know who move around a lot? Students and poor people. Sigh, this does not bode well for our little democracy in Murderdelphia.

So why do I care so much about voting? Because I used to be a journalist. I looked forward to Election Day like it was Christmas. All the preparation for the big day, and then the actual Election Day running — often literally running — around the city all day, usually a good 10 or 15 hour day, talking to voters and politicians, watching the results come in, getting comments, etc. It’s electric, and besides that it’s IMPORTANT. So the idea that so many people were turned away today when they actually got out and tried to vote chills me to the core.

The man at the polling place, after I patiently trained all of his volunteers who were obviously not briefed properly just using my common sense, said, “I should hire you next election!” And I thought, fuck, it is my DUTY to take off next election and volunteer at that shady school. I’ll bring the Box of Joe, you bring the votes.

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