Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I had a nightmare last week that it was the general election and they wouldn't let me vote privately. Nobody could see the paper, but you had to fill in a little map of the US with a blue or a red marker (I've been reading too much Newsweek) and everyone could see what color pen you had. All of my family and anyone I had ever met was there, and I knew, someone or probably a large group of someones, was going to be pissed no matter what. I was running around frantically trying to hide to vote when I woke up in tears. I thought I was being silly, I had no idea my dream was prophetic.

I voted in the primary yesterday, which was a highly unsettling experience for me. Not because of the new primary system (welcome to the other 49 states, Washington, it's not that hard), but because of the lack of privacy. It's voting! Privacy should not be a question! The little booths that you voted in were just tables with sides and there was no curtain. The sheet was way bigger than the table, so I felt like it was all hanging out there for anyone to see. It was probably fine, but I have never even seen voting without curtains in all my years watching my parents vote, voting in three states, and watching TV and movies. I didn't like it. Then came the worst part. You had to take your ballot (the huge piece of paper you have just made large and obvious marks on both sides of) and walk across the room past all the other voters, attendants, and whoever else happened to be around. After getting to the collection box I saw sitting on top of it two "privacy shields" you could put your ballot in.

1.) There were ten voting booths and two privacy folders.

If you make hiding your vote an option, it is a quick jump to a tool of intimidation. "Why do you want the folder; what do you have to hide?" If you disagree with family or friends but feel arguing would be a waste of energy with them, it is easy in conversation to avoid telling them so, but if they go to the polls with you and can see what you do or that you feel an "unusual" need to hide it, your vote could much more easily be swayed with this system. Voting your conscience should not be difficult.

You know, though I would still be unsettled, I don't think I would have left the polling place staving off a panic attack in another place like CO where people are a little more evenly split between parties and are accostomed to everybody having their own opinion. In Seattle I would actually fear reprecussions if I had voted against the mainstream liberal bent and people could see.


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