I had an eventful voting experience this morning. As most of you know, I am an early bird, so I was at the polls before 7AM. But my name was not on the rolls! I knew I was registered, because I had double-checked before the Jan. 11 cut off date; in November, I had re-registered to be in the Democratic Party, specifically so I could vote in the primary, and wanted to make sure it "took."
Now the poll workers' first response was that this was somehow my fault. "Did you move recently?" No--I have had the same address for ten years. "Have you not voted here before?"--No I have voted at the same location several times. "Well, when was the last time you voted? If you haven't voted recently, you might have taken off the rolls." I voted in Nov. 2006, in the Congressional race. "There was no Congressional race in 2006." Yes there was--Clinton was elected for a 2nd term. Also, I voted for governor in that race. "The governor was not elected then---he has been in office for 8 years." Spitzer was elected in 2006--he has been in office a year. "Oh. Right. I was thinking of the mayor." I can't believe how upset I was by the end of this conversation--chocking back tears upset.
So, after we determined I was not a complete idiot (and that most of them were), one poll worker offered me a paper ballot. But if my name wasn't on the rolls, I'm pretty sure that ballot would never be counted. So, someone else told me that I could try to get a court order that would allow me to vote on the machines. This sounded like a huge hassle, but I decided to go through with it. This sounds melodramatic, but I thought of Alice Paul on that hunger strike and being force fed in jail, and decided I could spend one day dealing with NYC red tape to make a point. Also, I'm always telling my students they should vote, and I didn't want to go in on Wednesday and tell them I just gave up.
It turns out, getting a court order to vote was incredibly easy. I assumed I would have to go downtown, but there was site set up across the street from the polling place. (This was just my good luck--there are only 3 in all of Manhattan.) Because it was so early, I got to speak to a clerk right away; he told me by noon there would be a line out the door. So I just told him my story (I didn't move, I knew I was registered, etc.) and he filled out the petition. Then a court reporter and a judge came over, and I raised my right hand and swore everything on the petition was true, and the judge signed the order. I told the judge that was much easier than I expected, and she just laughed and said, "Well, you look credible." And my guess if your address is in Greenwich Village and you look like a nice, middle-class white girl, and you explain you know you registered as a Democrat because you did so at the CUNY Women's Leadership Conference, you do seem credible. But other people should get to vote too!
Anyway, so I voted. The poll workers were really sweet when I went back, saying they were happy I was successful. Although, they seemed to be in the process of messing up more people's voting experience. They had to fill out a card for each Democrat and each Republican who voted, and number them. They were only up to 19 on the Democratic side, and they could not keep the numbers straight. They did make me laugh when they were shocked that someone had requested the Republican card--as of 8:15 apparently only one person had voted Republican in NYC 34th district. (They did not say this in front of the voter).
My request for a court order