Activism and Webcomics.

So Voting has put me in a bit of an activist mood.

First order of business: I don't think I have any Sheldon fans out there, but if I do. . .he's leaving United Media and going indie at . And since United Media are keeping him from notifying the fans, I figured I'd desimate the information as widely as possible. Sheldon's a decent comic, and it deserves to succeed.

Now, my voting story.

So last week you'll recall that I posted about Georgia's use of the Diebold Accuvote TS (aka: the vote-stealing security-hole riddled cesspool of ultimate evil) and how I was going to try to get around voting using one of the damn things if possible.

Back in September, when I transfered my driver's license to Georgia, I had the DMV register me to vote (a service that I distinctly recall paying for using real money). Keep this in mind in the tale that follows.

So last week on Friday, I dropped by the Board of Elections office to see about voting in advance, guessing that they might use the absentee or provisional ballots for that task. En route to the office I was told they used the machines, and upon arriving discovered my informant was right--they had a row of Accuvotes lurking against the back wall, quietly devouring the inputs of the intrepid masses hoping to vote early and avoid the rush. For the record, I had an hour and six errands to run, and had as much as been told that what I was attempting was impossible without distorting time, space, or both.

So I grabbed a form (the 'advance voting' form for Georgia is also the 'absentee voting' form) and filled it out to vote absentee, handed it to a clerk, and dashed back out the door, hoping it would be put in the mail on Friday, and reach me Saturday or Monday.

I had a rather busy weekend, but noted with dissapointment that I received no ballot on Saturday.

On Monday, I also received no ballot. Hmm.

So today before I left work I dropped by the website of the Bibb County Board of Elections. For a small Georgia city, they're remarkably helpful, listing contact information on their website, a pdf of the sample absentee ballot so you won't be surprised by an issue or election that you missed information about, and a dynamic database that tells you what polling place you'll be assigned on Election day.

Since I knew there was something up, I checked to see what my polling place was, so I could be prepared to go there if needed when I got home from work. The system told me it couldn't find me in the registered voters databse.


That gives me a clue as to the possible reason I didn't get an absentee ballot--the DMV might have taken my money and done NOTHING.


So when I left work (in the rain) I came home, to check my mailbox one last time, and upon discovering no ballot (!) in my mailbox, I jumped back in my truck and went back to the board of elections office, which thankfully is not used as a polling place during the actual elections, and was therefore completely empty at 4PM, since nothing interesting will happen there until the vote tallies start later tonight.

I introduced myself, and had a discussion with a very helpful lady who, aside from having me call out my social security number across the office like it was a gorram football play, was startingly competent and soon figured out that I wasn't (haha!) in the registered voters list.

So she has me fill out a new form to be a registered voter, charges me nothing (my thoughts on the DMV: thos bastards!) and tells me to go to my polling place (which is embarrassingly close to my house despite me having no idea that it was located there. Doh!) and tell them I'm supposed to vote provisionally. She also tells me that I'lly notified by mail that my vote has been tallied, which surprises me.

So I stomp back out into the rain with a slightly clearer vision of my objective and directions (and nothing else, no note, no form, nothing), and head off for my local polling place at Progressive Christian Academy. I get there, glance up at the sign and think to myself that the athiests in my area must have a real issue with voting here.

I gallosh my way almost to the door and see a sign saying NO CELL PHONES! Back to the truck (Gallosh gallosh gallosh) drop off my Cell, and then back to the door (Gallosh gallosh gallosh). Inside, and the fun begins.

I sweep into the building (past a sign that says "VOTE HERE TODAY"--I can't help thinking "Where do I go to vote again tomorrow?") and find myself in a small room with five diebold grimacing at me from the back wall and a couple sitting at a folding table littered with the short form we use to inform them that we're registered voters.

"How are you?" says the cheerful black gentleman at the table. He's probably in his 50s. He strikes me as a veteran. "Wet!" I say, and deposit my raincoat on a chair against the wall.

He hands me the form and I say "I think I'm supposed to vote provisionally." He nods and says, "Fill this out first and we'll go from there."

So I fill it out, and he sends me over to another folding table, this one with a couple of small computers and small ladies that were obviously church or school secretaries in a previous life, neither are young, but one of them might be possibly dug up and re-animated especially for the election. It's hard to tell.

I give them the paper. They type on their computers. They confer. They decide I am not "in the system" as it were. I'm aware of this, and explain that I've already been to the board of elections and they told me to come here and vote provisionally.

They call over a younger trim (by which I mean fifties) black lady who seems very capable and kind and has the most strikingly attractive head of silver hair I've ever seen upon one of her race and age. It appears she is the commandant of this particular outpost in the great war for a better democracy. The old ladies seem to trust her implicitly and I'm immediately inclined to agree with them.

She speaks with them in hushed tones, looks at my paperwork, and hears my story.

Eventually she waves me to follow "Come with me, I'll have to call this in."

So we go over to the corner of the room and she picks up her cell phone (?!) and calls the board of elections.

She explains my situation, and deliberating ensues.

While she's talking, the two elderlies from table #2 call out to me and begin waving me back there. I Notice that and decide that maybe they have some question for me. I step towards them and the commandant immediately waves me back "Sir, I need. . ." So now I'm basically in the middle of the open space between the table and the commandant, and torn between the two like a puppy being called my twin siblings trying to prove which one it loves more. I decide to stay with the commandant, and the elderlies finally call out "What is your first name?" (I think they thought they had found me "in the syste" as it were). I tell them Patrick and they slump back, dejected. The mystery of my voter status remains unsolved.

So the commandant finally asks the person on the phone if they'd like to speak to me. There's a pause. She's apparently been put on hold.

We wait.

and wait.

and wait.

After maybe a minute or two. . .

Commandant: "Yes? What. . .? Oh, you were waiting for me to put him on? Heavens, why didn't you say so? We were waiting for you. Heh. Oh, well, here he is."

And she hands me the cell phone. I'm starting to decide that apparently I will break every rule in the voting book today, so I shouldn't view this handling of electronic contraband as a bad thing.

I explain my situation. The board gets my information from me, and finally says "Ah. Well, you'll need to vote provisionally."

(NO SHIT SHERLOCK!) my left brain screeches. Thankfully my politeness center tends to be overdeveloped for these sorts of environments, so it keeps my mouth shut.

"Put the other lady back on please." Says the board.

I hand the phone back to the commandant without a word. The board explains itself, she listens intently.

"Aha." She says. After a round of thank yous, she hangs up, and tells me "you'll need to vote provionsally."

(REALLY?!) says my left brain. Thankfully my sarcasm centers are all shorted out by the rain, so this comment doesn't reach my mouth either.

So the commandant leads me across the room to table #3, featuring a jovial woman with small orange forms. They look remarkably like the white one I filled out when I arrived.

She says "Your first customer!" and I realize I'm about to vote in with the handicapped and 75+, using an optically measured pen-and-paper ballot. I almost laugh aloud. (TAKE THAT DIEBOLD CORPORATION, YOU GREEDY BACKROOM-DEALING POLITICIAN BUYING BASTARDS!) my left brain rejoins, but it's given up on actually making my mouth work at this point, so I simply smile and nod. I give her my Driver's license. At this point this crowd could probably ask for my bank card and a baby picture and if I had both in my wallet I'd cheerfully surrender them. My left brain whimpers quietly like a muzzled schnauzer watching a squirrel.

The jovial lady gives me an orange form. "I'll need to you fill this one out."

I take it. It looks exactly like the white form, and seems to contain all of the same information. I don't try to resist the innanity of this. I fill out the form.

She hands me a ballot roughly the size of a bodyboard, and two envelopes. "You'll be voting with this. When you're done, fold it and put it in the first envelope. Then put that in the second envelope. Seal them, y'know."

She holds onto my driver's license. I conclude that I am to trade the completed ballot for it. I decide this seems like a fair trade and head over to the (very wobbly) voting-table-in-a-briefcase. There's a felt-tip pen strung to it, and that seems to be for my use on the ballot.

I vote.

I return to the jovial lady, and place my entry in the special voters ballot bag (probably $7,500, if it was a gov't acquisition, I think ruefully). She returns me my license.

I thank her, call thanks to the rest of the crowd, and walk out of the polling center and into the rain.

A moment later I walk back in to get my coat.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006