Preceinct 414: One man’s quest to cast a ballot in Florida
Unless you were living under a rock, you probably know that yesterday was election day here in the good old US of A, which just happens to be one of my favorite days of the year. And I’m not being ironic or cynical in any way shape or form: I absolutely LOVE to vote. I don’t follow things quite as closely as I used to, but I consider myself more informed than most voters. Not only do I follow the major national and state level races, but I do my best to learn something about just about everyone on the ballot, from judges to tax collectors. I also try and learn as much as possible about constitutional amendments, of which we had 12 on the ballot yesterday in Florida since our legislature shamefully passed to buck on voting on many of these issues on record (more on that later).
Now of course you also probably have heard that we here in Florida have some interesting things going on on election day, and this year was no exception. What follows is my record of my experiences trying to cast a ballot in the middle of the Florida electoral circus.
I debated getting up at the crack of dawn and trying to get to the polls when they opened before I went to work, but decided instead on stopping off on the way home. About 1:00 PM my wife, who had gone to vote at 11:00, texted me and told me that she had been in line for two hours and didn’t have much hope getting through the line anytime soon. This meant that I needed take off from work a bit early to pick my kids up from school since she didn’t know if she was going to finished in time to pick them up. Turns out she was right, and finally cast her ballot nearly two hours later, meaning she put in nearly four full hours in line. The good news, she said, was that the line was shorter than it had been all day and that if I went over I’d probably only have to wait a couple of hours.
She was wrong. So very wrong. I made my way over to the polling place around 4:00 PM and found myself at the end of this.
It just so happened that my son, Brandon, decided this year that he wanted his first taste of democracy (they just started talking about civic and government in school, so his interest was high), so I agreed to let him tag along and experience it all first hand. Fortunately I also insisted that he bring along a couple of Calvin and Hobbes books to keep him occupied in line.
Now, there’s one thing you need to know about living in Orlando: thanks to Disney, we are all pros at forming a line. Seriously, we are the US equivalent of 1970s East Germany when it comes to the queue. So everyone kept pretty good humor while we slowly inched forward.
The funny (funny strange, definitely not funny ha ha) about this polling place was that there were actually two precincts with two separate lines – our precinct, 414 as well as precinct 413. The line for 413 was never more than 20 minutes. How does that work exactly? Don’t ask, it’s Florida. Meanwhile, Brandon was chatting everyone up about how much he wanted an “I Voted” sticker and wanted to show all of them his Captain America shoes. (wow, writing about standing in a line is pretty boring – let’s skip to the end through the magic of photography, shall we?)
Finally, after 3 hours and 40 minutes, I got my ballot and started to vote, with Brandon an interested, if slightly frazzled, onlooker. All of five minutes later I was done and entered my vote without incident. And this guy finally got his sticker and we both treated ourselves to some sushi.
And so ended my voting adventure. (We left just as the polls were supposed to be closing, but there were still several hundred people in line. This explains why the Florida returns took so long to come in, as I doubt those people finished much before 11:00 PM. Aren’t you glad everything to come down to us again?) Yeah, it was a pain to sit there in line for that long, but you know what? Nobody shot at us. I didn’t have to hike several miles just to get to the polling place. In other words, my standing in a line seems trivial to what people around the world have to do to get their chance to vote, so I’m thankful and quite frankly spoiled with the relative ease of my experience. And I look forward to doing it all over again in a couple of years.
PS – A quick rant. As I said, shame on you Florida Legislature for loading up the ballot with constitutional amendments just so you could avoid having an up and down vote on these issues. Constitutions are supposed to be about how your state/country/etc is supposed to be governed and contain only those issues and rights that are so fundamental that they deserved to be removed permanently from political debate and discourse. They are NOT the place for property tax issues and disputes over whether or not you like other pieces of legislation. Don’t do it again, Tallahassee. You’ve been warned.