Why Early Voting in L.A. Sucks . . . but in a good way

4 Nov

 

*Live-blogging from my Blackberry:

Imagine having folks from one of the largest counties in the U.S. convene in one location for the most historic election in our history.

Then imagine my disappointment upon approaching a jam-packed parking lot in the L.A. County Registrar’s office on Friday, October 31, 2008 at 1 p.m.  The plan was to leave during my lunch break, stand in line for a few minutes, leave by 1:30 p.m., and be back to work by 2:00 p.m.  Not so.  I’m not sure what on earth made me think I could get in a quickie during my lunch break knowing that people from all across the country are voting in record numbers.  I should’ve known.  After all, I do work in the press department for Brave New Films.  Lesson learned.

Here’s how it wend down – and why early voting in L.A. sucks:

It all began when I stood in the ‘number line’ that wrapped around the block.

 

 

 

 

After an hour of standing outside (while it also rained for a brief fifteen minutes), I finally reached the end of the line.  After showing my I.D. and handing the volunteer a slip of paper with my voter information written on it, I then received a green piece of paper with a three-digit number on it.  Hope is arguably the campaign slogan for 2008, but false hope was the theme of the day for those of us who reached the end of the number line thinking we were just moments away from casting our votes.  Truth is; the end of the number line is just the beginning.

I’m now sitting on a metal chair blogging about my voting experiences on my Blackberry underneath a large white canopy with hundreds of other early voters. Like good little sheep, we await our numbers to be called by a woman with a bull horn.

Herded Sheep

Herded Sheep

My number? 240 Green. It’s strictly random – like Bingo. One woman actually yelled “Bingo!” when her number was called. I’m now hearing folks chatter to each other saying that they’ve been here since 10am. I’ve been here for nearly 2 hours.

“It’s a crap shoot!” one man yelled. Another man behind me who just spotted his number in the bin called out “Oh lawdy, I see my number – thank you Jesus!” Damn him.

Some early voters are demanding to see the supervisor. Numbers have been called twice while other numbers haven’t been called for hours. What will they do for people who missed hearing their number being called? Certainly not take away their opportunity to vote.

 

I see news crews all around. I’m tempted to hustle on over to one of the reporters and send a shout out to Brave New Films. But I don’t want to lose my seat.

I just overheard a voting official tell one early voter that after we turned in our information from the number line, they took our info down to the “basement” to verify whether or not we are registered. No telling what happens in the basement, or what happens to and from the basement.  After verification, the numbers are carried back outside in a bin and given to the woman with the bull horn calling out numbers under the canopy.

If (yes if) our number gets called then we retrieve our voting card and proceed to another canopy where the voting booths are located.  There aren’t any constant variable with this scenario (except for the lady with the bull horn).  Your number might get called within minutes after turning in your voter information, or as is the case with most of the folks around me, you could be waiting for hours.  It’s obvious that the volunteers here cannot keep up with the volume of early voters.

 

Oh god! They just announced that they ran out of numbers. They’re calling out names now.

Two elderly women sitting behind me are talking to each other about what’s happening.  They, unlike me, sit patiently.  “This is the most historic election in our history” said one woman.  “Can you believe this turnout?  This is wonderful” said the other woman.  I needed that reminder.

Despite the inconvenience, rain, and frustration this is one of the most amazing, and admittedly surreal, moments in my life. Now approaching hour three, I’ve grown close to my fellow early voters who sit patiently and impatiently around me.  It’s familial in here. A woman who stood in the number line with me hours before and who is also sitting next to me now just heard her number announced by the lady with the bull horn.  Heading toward the poll booth she turned around and waved at me, “Good luck!” she said.  They come, they vote, and then they leave.  I’m gonna miss my early voting compadres.

So while there are some factors of early voting in L.A. that does indeed suck, witnessing the enthusiasm and determination of those voting make the experience memorable and worth wild.

Finally!  My number is called.  I’m walking to the voting booth dazed yet anxious as hell to cast my vote.  I’m met by a non-user-friendly voting card.

Why, oh why, does this have to be so freakin’ complicated!  A lady next to me just asked how to fill out her card – I noticed she’s voting for Nader.  I assist the woman by telling her to fill in the circles on her Scantron that correspond with her choices in the booklet.  I feel like I’m having high school SAT flashbacks.

The woman thanks me.  I drop my card in the voting box and don’t look back, except for a moment when one volunteer approached me and said, “You look tired sweetie.”  “I am” I replied.

It’s  about 5:30 p.m. and I’m heading back to work at a complete stand-still on I-10.  The sky is darkening and L.A. traffic couldn’t be any more sinister than it is right now.

I’m thinking back to what one woman whispered to her friend while waiting for her number to be called.

“Next time, I’m voting absentee.”


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One Response to “Why Early Voting in L.A. Sucks . . . but in a good way”

  1. Constance Thomas November 6, 2008 at 3:47 am #

    What a wonderful piece you wrote. I at 57 also cried to know that I was able to witness such History not only for myself but for my grandchildren. As I watched the exceptance speech more tears came to my eyes for the joy and the love he not only has for all people but for the love he has for his family. I too pray and beg that change will come for us all.

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