'Rumpole', he of the Justice Building Blog, describes his experiences voting in our primary/judges/etc election here in Miami today in DEMOCRACY IN ACTION,
Here is democracy in action- Miami style:
I parked and approached the polling site. There were several elderly women sitting on chairs surrounding the entrance. Upon seeing me, they immediately sprung into action, grabbed their walkers or canes and cards containing ads for various candidates and descended upon me.
Now I ve lived in Miami long enough to understand most Spanish, so I immediately recognized when an elderly woman loudly insulted the heritage and family members of Fidel Castro while thrusting a Rick Corona for Judge card into my hand. Another woman attempted to press a voting slate into my hand while complaining, I m pretty sure, of the Dolphins decision to release their kicker from last year and go with a rookie. She also doesn t like the 3-4 defense, which she made quite clear to me in Spanish while handing me a Harvey Ruvin for Clerk card.
Finally, as I almost entered the polling place I felt a distinct tug on the back of my Team USA Basketball shirt that I always wear when traveling. A woman thrust a slate of candidates into my hand and told me in no uncertain terms that I had to vote for them. My Spanish is not great, so I carefully inquired if I could vote for anyone else?
NO came the loud response. These were the people I must vote for. I waived over a polling marshal, whom I m pretty sure I recognized from the security screening at the REGJB. Therein ensued a loud argument in Creole and Spanish between the marshal and the woman.
I walked into the voting area adjusting my Team USA shirt and handed another elderly woman aren t their any retired men who work at polling stations? my election card and driver s license.
WHO ARE YOU ? she screamed at me in Spanish.
Well I certainly wasn t about to reveal my identity as the blogger at this point, so I said my real NAME.
NO. WHAT ARE YOU? My spanish isn t great so I had not correctly understood the first question. It has been a long time since anyone ever seriously asked me that question and it caught me by surprise.
American? I ventured.
NO. WHAT ARE YOU? She screamed again. She was shouting in Spanish loud enough to actually wake up the other poll workers.
A human being? I mumbled, although some who read my blog might disagree. Really I just want to vote.
Another poll worker came over and explained I needed to tell her if I was a Republican or Democrat. The crisis being settled, I signed my NAME, received a ticket, a large folder and a special pen and was sent to the voting booth.
So much for electronic voting. We are now back to the days of SATs and the like. It s the good old fill in the oval with the special pen.
After you vote you have to take your ballot to an optical screening machine. The one I used was one of the newer ones, which I could tell because the tape holding it together was still sticky. A polling official came over and took my ballot and (I kid you not) carefully looked at every choice I made.
“What are you doing?” I said.
She replied in Spanish that she was checking to make sure I voted correctly.
“I don't think you're allowed to do that” I said. And she scowled at me like I was a relative of Fidel Castro. Another official came over and I inquired if voting in the United States Of America was by secret ballot.
“Que?” was the response. I did not know the phrase “secret ballot” in Spanish, so I had to wait several minutes for another supervisor to come over, wherein I explained the situation. The three of them huddled for a few minutes, casting glances at me that I had not seen since I had tried to board a plane earlier in the morning. Eventually the supervisor and returned and explained to me (and I have not made any of this up) that If I really wanted to, I had the right to have the ballot put through the electronic screener without it being reviewed.
I opted for that decision, and someone pulled a starter cord and the high tech optical screener coughed to life and I put my ballot through and voted.
I love this country. And I really love my town. Who could think of moving anywhere else, when this kind of entertainment is available for free?
I voted too. It wasn't nearly as entertaining in my precinct.