I voted. Now I can complain.

Posted by Christy Jerz on Wednesday August 16, 2006.

i voted stickerLike any good Renoite, I headed out tonight to vote. I hopped in the car and headed to the nearest poll, which is a couple of blocks from my house. Once I arrived, I realized that I had made an incorrect assumption. Of the four precincts that were allowed to vote at the location in question, I was not one. Instead, I was redirected to a different voting location. One in a… um… more questionable part of town.

As I got back in my car, I checked the back of Ryan’s sample ballot. (Since he’s a registered Republican, and I’m a Democrat, we can easily use the same sample ballot without getting in each other’s way.) Sure enough, his ballot clearly stated that we are supposed to vote at an H&R Block on South Wells Avenue. So as to avoid confusion, the ballot even specified: “Entrance on Burns Street.”

I pulled off Wells Avenue and parked on Burns Street. There appeared to be two doors facing Burns Street. One had a sign reading: “This is not an entrance.” The other was occupied by a man who had already tucked himself in for the night. At neither entrance did I see the welcoming sandwich board proclaiming “Vote Here Today!” that I had seen at my previous stop. Hmmm“¦

At this point I pulled back onto Wells Avenue to see if I could spot the H&R Block business front. After a near plowing by a Speedy Burrito customer coming the other way, I spotted the H&R Block another street north, on Crampton. Huh.

I parked across the street from the welcoming sandwich board and headed up to the poll. I was greeted outside by a man in a wheelchair, who pointed me to the correct door. I realized that the door shouldn’t be that hard to find. (After all, it was plastered with “Vote Here Today” arrows.) However, the scene inside made me think I was once again in the wrong location.

Ignoring my better judgment, I stepped inside. The room I entered appeared to be a storage room of some sort. Boxes lined the space from floor to ceiling. There was a small desk set up at which a woman, apparently the voting bouncer, was seated.

I showed the woman my ID. (Something which my husband told me later that I am not required to do). Ignoring my ID, she asked to see the sample ballot that I had brought along. I handed it over.

“It’s not mine,” I told her. “It’s my husband’s.”

“Well then, I don’t know how I’m going to find you in the system,” she replied.

“How do you find people who leave their sample ballots at home?” I asked her.

She looked at me blankly.

“Let’s pretend I’m one of them.”

As she searched for me in “the system,” I noticed that the wheelchair guy, apparently part of the voting staff, was still in the room. Another man, on legs, not wheels, had also appeared. As the only voter, I wondered why so many people were required to handle my voting needs. (No other voters ever did appear during my time in the storage room.)

“Ryan Christopher Jerz?” the voting bouncer asked.

“Uh, no,” I said.

I must have been “on the list,” because the bouncer finally nodded and passed my (Ryan’s) sample ballot to the man on legs. He walked me into a second room, where I encountered a second table, this time attended by a man and woman.

“Hi, I’m here to vote,” I said, proffering my identification.

“Can I see your sample ballot, please?” asked the man at the table.

The man on legs said quickly, “It’s not hers. It’s her husband’s,” and handed over the commandeered sample ballot.

“Hmmm,” said the table man. I noted that his nametag specified his title as “Chair.” I wasn’t sure if that was to indicate where he would be sitting tonight, or if he was the actual ringleader of this voting circus.

“Maybe you could just look me up in the book,” I said. The man and woman looked up from the table in surprise. No doubt because I had never been trained in proper voting volunteer worker protocol.

I was finally found (You’re not Ryan Jerz? Wait, you’re on the page before him – gasp!), signed my name, and was given the magnetic card and unsharpened pencil to use at my voting booth.

As I began voting, I started to question whether or not I had selected “English” on the first screen. While I understood the words that were appearing, none of them matched my sample ballot. Well, it had been a couple of years since I voted. Maybe I missed some questions on the sample ballot and would get to the ones I had researched in a little bit.

As I voted, the voting volunteers decided that now was the time to reconcile their records. They began calling out to each other the names of voters that had come before me.

“Hamilton, Brian.”

“Yep, he’s on here.”

“Harrington, Joshua.”

“Got him.”

And so on until “Jerz, Ryan,” was read, followed by the reply, “Check. Early voter.”

I began to wonder why I was voting inside horse blinders if not for privacy. Just then, the “cast your ballot now” message appeared on my screen. I still had not voted for one Democratic race.

I turned to the folks at the table, “Uh, excuse me. I seem to have received the wrong ballot questions.”

“What do you mean?” the ringleader asked.

“I’m a registered Democrat,” I said.

“Well God bless you,” piped up the guy in the wheelchair.

“And these are Republican candidates,” I continued.

“Well, your husband is a Republican,” the table man said.

“We’ll pray for him,” said wheelchair guy.

“And I’m not,” I replied.

“Oh,” said the Chair. “But your husband is. You really shouldn’t bring his ballot to the booth. I just assumed you were, too. Well, what do we do now?”

“No problem. We just back out her ballot,” said the wheelchair guy. He swiftly rolled over to my booth and took my unsharpened pencil from my hand. Without permission, he proceeded to press the “back” button on the screen until he returned to the beginning of the whole shebang. He then went through my previously private ballot one question at a time, unchecking the checked Republican candidates as he went. Finally, he reached the end and pressed the “cast your ballot now” button. I watched the null and void votes print in the untouchable ballot chamber.

When it was all said and done, it took me 15 minutes to vote three times. Once for Republicans. Once for no one. And once for Democrats, who had been selected on my (good Lord!) husband’s sample ballot.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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