My state passed a voter ID law last year (according to one of our Republican politicians, this would “win the state for Romney,” as those least likely to have, afford, or be able to procure the relevant identification are elderly and low-income voters, who tend to vote Democrat). So all the even-vaguely-lefty types rallied to publicize this, to raise funds to help people who could not afford fees for state id, to drive people to state offices to apply for id, etc. Cool. Then a state judge effectively embargoed the law, stating that people had not had enough time to get ids – the law would go into effect in the future, *and* the poll workers could ask you for id, but you didn’t need to show it this time. So all the even-vaguely-lefty types went rushing around to make sure that people knew that you did NOT need id to vote, and that you should turn out to vote anyway, and that you could not be forced to show id. Again, cool. We need more people of all political backgrounds getting out into neighborhoods, talking to people about their rights and making sure they are able to vote.
So. . . I show up at the polls this morning. I have the phone number of the ACLU in my pocket, just in case. I also, completely randomly, have a digital recorder that I am supposed to give back to my friend at work. I walk up to the table to sign the register. “Do you have id?” asks the poll worker seated at the table. Baffled, I say, “Why do you ask?” “Because,” he tells me, “it says next to your name in the register that you must present id. Have you ever voted in this precinct before?” “Errr, no, I just moved here.” More bafflement. I happen to have my passport (which is good, because I don’t have a driving license), and my county registration card (Question: since they send us a card as proof that we are registered, why did the state pass a fucking law that we need another form of id THAT SHOWS AN EXPIRATION DATE in order to vote?). I’m now so baffled that I don’t know what to say, and head into the voting booth. It is technically correct that you need id if you have not voted in a precinct before; I knew this but had forgotten. It is also written on the registration card. By the way, for Steve and anyone else outside the US: the registration card is just a flimsy piece of cardboard, just a confirmation that you are on the electoral register at a particular address. You could make one on your home computer. Most people immediately lose them, and no one reads the fine print. And yeah: many people who first thought they needed id, and then were told they did NOT need id, now actually MAY need id, but they won’t have it. Got it?
Anyway, it’s an electronic voting both, and you just press the button next to the candidate’s name and a light lights up. When you’re ready, you press a big red button to cast your vote. There have already been umpteen serious problems with these things; there is no receipt or no proof that it has actually recorded your vote. It’s a machine, and it makes a little beeping sound after you press the big red button, but that’s it. I press the red button. There is no beeping sound. The lights go out to indicate that the machine is “done” and can be reset for the next person. Baffled, I step out. The poll worker says, “Oh, I didn’t hear it beep. But the light went out and the machine reset. So I guess you’re ok.”
Seriously, fucking seriously. Oh, and my friend’s wife went to vote in the precinct where she has voted for eight years. They asked her for id. Why? Because the polling place had been moved to a new building. And yes, I called the ACLU in Philadelphia, and they seemed nice, but I don’t think this was the worst crap they had to deal with today. But I managed, completely accidentally, to turn on my digital recorder with my hip-bone. So it’s all there, in a faintly purse-muffled way, although I’ll never be able to prove that anything actually went wrong. Seriously, fucking seriously.