i voted this morning at the humongoid high school down the street from my apartment. i came armed with 6 bills, past voter registration cards, my passport and my lease, just in case some pesky republican poll watcher tried to interfere. my first impression of this, the most hallowed experience of the democratic process?


the part when i first got in there and they looked up my name and signature in the big book of signatures and pulled out my form with my name on it from the big book of voters was cool. the part where i punched #4 (?) for john kerry was sort of cool. the rest of the voting where i was confronted with the names of about 500 judges that i’d never heard of in my life…that wasn’t so cool. my second impression of this, the cornerstone of democracy?


when the juicy stuff was over (the stylus-punching, the feeling-up of my ballot to check for any dangling bits) i thought it was time to feed my ballot into the ballot-checking machine. the ballot checking machine is this thing we have in illinois that is supposed to tell you right then and there if you’ve under- or over-voted or whatever so you can fix the error right away. the ballot girl gave my ballot a quick once-over then told me to put the ballot into this thing over here.

except that, see – let me say this again – i thought it was time to put my ballot in the ballot-checking machine so i assumed that was what i was being asked to do (maybe this is a good time to mention that this was the first time i’ve voted and i didn’t know what to do or what anything was). the thing i was standing in front of was huge and blue and had a slot in the top and something on the front that looked like it could be a place where your ballot comes back out after it’s been checked. i looked at the slot in the top of the big blue box and looked at my ballot, feeling oddly self-conscious that everyone could see what holes i punched. i asked the ballot girl, “which way should i put it in?”

she sort of blinked at me. “uh, it doesn’t matter.”

“oh. ok. uh…how’s that?” i turned and looked at the ballot girl with the sort of expression that parents must see a lot when they’re finally getting their kids potty trained.

about halfway through “how’s” i realized that although i was carefully feeding the ballot into the oddly large and gaping slot with both hands to keep it straight (‘this ballot-checking machine doesn’t look the way i thought it would,’ i thought. skipping over the obvious conclusion: ‘better do this carefully, this machine sort of looks like a flimsy piece of crap!‘), and although i was patiently waiting for some internal mechanism to grab the ballot out of my hands with a whirr and a click and scan it for proper voting…nothing was happening. i quickly reassessed the situation; ‘hmm. something’s not right here.

i got off my tip-toes and put my arms back down to my sides. at this point it occurred to me that this big box i was standing in front of didn’t really look like a fancy ballot-checking machine. it didn’t look like a complicated piece of machinery with drive belts and sensors and lasers or whatever else a ballot-checking machine might contain. upon closer inspection, ‘this thing isn’t even made of metal! it’s just a big plywood box painted blue! come to think of it, this flimsy little paper ballot is pretty small. why the heck is this box so BIG? what a waste of space! you could fit waaaaaay more than one ballot in there! that box could hold like, geez a couple HUNDRED ballots! oh bureaucracy! ha ha ha. ha…hey, wait a minute.‘ i looked at the box. i looked at the ballot girl…

oh. ballot BOX girl.


i frantically eyed the big blue box that was not marked “BALLOT BOX”. it didn’t look anything like the pictures of the ballot boxes on chicagoist. it didn’t have any sort of distinguishing marks at all! it didn’t have big stenciled letters that said, oh i don’t know – “BALLOT BOX” or a sign over it that said, “THIS IS A BALLOT BOX” and the ballot girl hadn’t said “put your ballot in the ballot box.” her only instruction was to “stick it in the slot” – a phrase which would’ve distracted me even if i weren’t already sort of nervous and confused about what was going on.

well, turns out – who would’ve guessed? (anyone but me, obviously) – i missed the part where the election judge or whoever said the ballot-checking machine at roosevelt was broken. so i was on my tip-toes feeding my ballot with both hands into the slot in the top of a giant blue ballot box that was as tall as me – feeding it in perfectly straight and very slowly because god forbid i make an ass out of myself and feed it into the ballot-checking machine incorrectly and jam it and make voting a big time-sucking hassle for people later on. meanwhile the few people that were voting at the same time had finished and formed a line behind me, waiting to perform the 0.8 second ballot-dropping maneuver that i had managed to stretch out for about half an hour.

all that and i didn’t even get a sticker.

update: eric made me a sticker!