Thursday, November 8, 2012

How the Government has Ruined Voting.

Tuesday was Election Day here in the United States, in case you missed it. This election was for president of the country, along with some other open posts in the Senate, House of Representatives, various Judges, and dog catcher. A few weeks ago I wrote about the presidential debates. Today, I want to explore voting.

Voting is the way that Americans can voice their choice in politics. Although some believe that the number of signs you have in your yard, or the number of posts to Facebook, or perhaps even the number of times you retweet your preferred candidates tweets constitutes voting; it does not.

In years gone by, the voters in New York actually used machines to vote with. These machines were behemoth booths with a curtain. You went inside, pulled a large lever and the curtain closed behind you. There was a certain comfort in shutting out the world outside knowing that what was done in that booth was kept private and secret.  Once that curtain was closed the voter was presented with a choice. He or she could select the candidates they felt were most qualified for the job, or they could break out singing an Italian operetta and take a shower. If the election inspector heard someone breaking out into song, they were instructed to immediately turn off the hot water to the booths, thereby cutting short any shower activity.

For those citizens who voted in these machines, they simply flipped a number of smaller levers corresponding to the names of the people for whom they wanted to vote. This physical act of flipping levers was both concrete and comforting. Once the voter finished selecting who was going to receive his votes, he pulled the large heavy lever back the other direction. This was a magical moment, for not only did the curtain open, releasing the voter to his native habitat, but all those levers that indicated which candidates were voted for, miraculously rose to their upright position. All of this occurred with reassuring clicks and clacks of gears and levers moving and the gentle swoosh of the curtain opening. As if some industrial wizard were reassuring the voter that indeed, his vote mattered.

Now, when I go to vote, the election inspector hands me a sheet of paper with fill-in-the-bubble spots for each candidate. This is a horrific predicament. As soon as I see those bubbles, nightmarish memories of past standardized tests rush through my brain. My heart races, palms get sweaty, and my stomach gets all knotted up. It is a moment of panic. I worry I am not going to select the right answers. I worry I am not going to correctly fill in the bubbles. I worry I am going to have to pee badly and the teacher won’t let me use the rest room for “security reasons.”

I finally finish filling in the right bubbles and walk up to the new-fangled voting machine; which is simply a black box. No curtain, no levers, no Italian operetta. I slide the paper into the black box. And, nothing. I stand there, aching for the familiar clack and swooshes. Still nothing. Finally, a small click. Thats all. Just a small click and I am done.

Somehow the government has been able to tax me to death, regulate me to being unable to do anything, and now they have sucked the joy out of voting too.

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