Monday, November 8, 2010

The Minnesota Quadrille: "Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?" *

Well, another year, another recount. This one is not at all surprising here on the tundra. At the end of election day, about 8000 votes separated the two leading candidates for governor, and that translated into less the .5% which by Minnesota state law requires a recount. This is a reasonable thing. We are now waiting for the official certification of the inital vote count which will be published on November 23rd, then, let the dancing begin!

I will continue to hold out hope that certification will go smoothly, that no one will have anything to gripe about, and that we’ll have a governor in place before the first of the year. It’s a nice dream. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, there’s another minor political storm brewing in this household. It’s about the violation of my father-in-law’s civil rights. The more I think about it, the madder I get.

Okay, here’s the story: my father-in-law is pretty much blind from macular degeneration.  He can see well enough to sign his name, and he can read Power Ball numbers with the aid of his enlarging machine. But filling in little circles on a ballot is beyond his ability.

When we got to the polling place, we had to sign our names on the voter registry . I signed mine, then held my finger in place to guide my father-in-law to the line where he would sign. The election judge watched silently.

Sez me, “Doc is pretty much blind.”
Sez she, “That’s okay.”
Sez me, “No, not really. He will need help filling in his ballot.”
Sez she, “Oh.”
I waited a bit, then asked, “Am I permitted to assist him?”
Sez she:  “Sure. Just go take a booth; you can both use it.”

Rickety things in a line
Booth is a misnomer. There is no booth. There’s a rickety thing with plastic sides, with very little space between it and the other rickety things. There can be no expectation of privacy whatsoever. I filled out my ballot first. Then, laying my father-in-law’s over mine, I began to read aloud the offices in as low a voice as possible, considering he doesn’t hear nearly as well as he thinks he does.

This would’ve been okay but for the man at the rickety thing to my left who decided he needed to make sure I was doing my job to his specifications. He leaned so far to his right that I thought he was looking over my shoulder. I cleared my throat a couple of times, and glared at him, but he seemed not to care. Blissfully unaware of the intrusion, my father-in-law repeatedly said, “Make sure you’re voting xxx down the line. Vote the line. Make sure you only fill in xxx votes.”
Ethiopian voting booths

Afterward, I didn’t think much of it until I saw an article on Ethiopian elections, and I noticed their voting booths had drapes. They may have been ragged, but there were drapes! Hey! Where’s my privacy?

I miss the old booths with the big board and the lever. There was a physicality that went with the thud of the curtain lever when you closed it. A feeling of empowerment when you opened it again and all the little levers resumed their neutral state. You had the feeling that you were casting a vote. It made you important.  The experience on Tuesday made me feel marginalized.

I have filed a complaint with the city. I promise to let you know what happens. 

Wifely Person's Tip O'the Day 
Rickety, inconsequential voting booths degrade the gravitas of the act of voting.  

 (*Thank you Lewis Carroll for that astute observation about Minnesota politics.) 


  1. This year we went to computer voting in NY and we are not happy.

    The lead in the 1st Congressional District went from the D to the R because of incorrect tallies reported by the polling inspectors.

  2. Oh I so agree on this one. We lost our lever machines in NY this year, and I so miss them. They were so visceral. I used to take the kinder with me to pull the big lever at the end. They are so upset that they missed using those machines.

    Cuzin' Barb

  3. Gee, my County now uses the Danaher voting system which comforts voters because it looks very much like the old voting booths. It has a touch screen key pad, privacy curtains, a paper audit trail (if needed) and -- get this -- an audio keypad for handicapped voters... I guess voting technology does NOT have to be a step backwards; in fact, unlike the Tundra region, we like to stay a step ahead of Ethiopia.

  4. My heart goes out to Doc. I forgot, until you wrote this, that it is another loss of independence, of autonomy, of life that is depleted. I'm glad you are there for him. Hugs to both of you.