Tuesday, February 05, 2008

why I did not vote today

It is pouring out and I am drenched when I arrive at the Andrews Arena by Northeastern. It took me half an hour to get here from my neighborhood in the South End. I shake off my umbrella, stomp the droplets of water off my boots, and pull open the wide, heavy doors.

"Hello, miss. What's your address?" a friendly, elderly black man asks me as I approach the voting table.
"Hello, how are you?" I respond with a smile. I love exercising my right to vote and cannot contain my excitement. "I live at 335 Huntington Ave, sir. Apartment number 13."

That's actually a little white lie. I have not lived at that address since I broke up with my ex in August 2005. I returned to my old address to vote for Deval Patrick as governer, and I assumed it would be A-OK to return to this address to vote for Hillary today. Someone indicated to me yesterday that this was not allowed, but I figured I'd try anyway.

"Okay, 335 Huntington Ave," said the nice voting registration person. "What's the last name, please?"

"Amann," I say, "That's A-M-A-N-N."I watch his finger scroll down the list and land beside my name. "That's me, right there!"

"Oh, okay. Hmm," says the voting registration person. "It says you're marked in the system as INACTIVE. When 's the last time you voted?"

"Oh, I can't say, for sure. I voted for the Governer, I know that..."

"Been awhile then? Okay, then I just need to see your I.D. Do you have an I.D. with you, miss?"

"Well, of course I do!" I say, and flash him an accommodating grin, as if to say, I always come prepared. "Here you go!"

"Oh, I see," says the nice voting table person. "Here's the problem. This I.D. says your address is 15 Warren Ave. Did you move since last time you voted, miss?"

"Umm...yes," I say. "Yes, I did. Sure did, I moved last week, in fact. 15 Warren Ave. is my old address. I live now at 335 Huntington Ave. Heh." Phew, dodged that bullet.

"Okay, well let me see here. We're going to have to get you all set up at your new address. Paul over here can help you. Paul!? Hey PAUL!" The nice voting table person bellows. "Can you come on over here and help this young lady out?"

An older, kind looking gentleman in a red sweater layered over a checkered dress shirt makes his way over to the table where we stand. He has kind, appealing mannerisms, not unlike those of Mr. Rogers.

"What seems to be the problem?" Mr Rogers says.

"See, my sheet says that she lives at 335 Huntington Ave.," says the nice voting registration person. "But this young lady's license says she lives at 15 Warren Ave. She moved since last time she voted, see? Now she lives at 335 Huntington Ave., don't you miss?" I cringe inside...I loathe lying...and nod vigorously. "Can you help this nice young lady figure out what to do?"

"Oh, you bet I can," says Paul/Mr. Rogers. "So let me get this straight. You used to live here," he holds up my license, "and now you live here," he points to my old address on the paper record held by the voter registration table.

It seems like decades ago I lived there -- I was a totally different person
, I think. My status is marked blatantly and clearly as INACTIVE. My heart sinks. They stare up at me, kindly, with concern. Clearly they are just trying to get things right.

"Yes, that's correct," I say. Why do they keep making me repeat this lie???

"Hmm, okay," Mr. Rogers says, motioning me over to a different table in a corner of the room.

"Come over here, to this table, let's get you all squared away." He sighs and garuphs as he moved. "There's a bunch of paperwork you need to fill out now, and blah blah blah..."

What is he talking about??? I think. I'm just trying to vote here, people? Can't you just buy my lies and let me vote and get on with my life???? Suddenly my blood pressure is through the roof....

"WAIT!" I cry. "I CAN'T...I don't...I have an idea! Why don't I run home and get a proof of residency? A utility bill or something to show that that's where I live? I used that once at the DMV. A utility bill? Will that work?" My face is bright red.

"Why, sure!" Mr. Rogers says, as though I've just invented s'mores. "Well, it's awfully inconvenient. But, if it's not too much trouble, there is a lot of paperwork involved in doing it the other way...."

"NO, no," I say, "It's not trouble at all! It's just across the street! I'll run home & come right back!"

"Okay," Mr. Rogers says, looking at me as though I've just sprouted anotehr head. "Just bring back something, anything with your name and new address...the 335 Huntington Ave address on it, and...why, you can vote!"

"Ha! Thanks so much!" I say, giggling nervously, "You've been so helpful!" I'm shoving my I.D. in my purse, grabbing my umbrella off the floor. "Happy Voting!" I call behind me as I rush for the door.

I push those massive door open and -- phew!-- finally I can breathe again! All that lying & deceit, it was almost too much to take!

I walk to work in the pouring, dumping rain. I can't catch a cab to save my life. I consider it my penance.

What a bummer Super Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

Something about this post reminded me of The Breakfast Club when Anthony Michael Hall's character had a fake ID that said he was 19 so he could vote.

Anonymous said...

Not to be anal, but I think you mean Matthew's Arena, not Andrews.