Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting in Tijeras: Crests, IDs, Ballots and Other Things Totally Un-PC

So call me old-fashioned.

This morning, the Engineering Geek and I drove down to the Tijeras Village Hall to vote.

Yes, on election day itself.

What a concept.

I like voting in my precinct in my neighborhood. I see my neighbors. We chat while munching on coffee and cookies provided by the Village of Tijeras.

There are some unspoken rules about what to chat about while waiting in line.

We do talk about the weather, the progress of the I-40 rennovation in the canyon, the village crest--which sports a conquistador helmet with a Zia, a Spanish sword, the charter from Spanish King Phillip II, a yucca plant and a rosary. Rural New Mexico is refreshingly politically incorrect.

Digression: Bernalillo County's crest used to sport a cross above a green hill with sheep grazing and the legend "In hoc signe venices." Then we got an influx of refugees from Lebanon in the 1980s. Some of them were uncomfortable with the cross, which reminded them of being hassled by the Christian police. So, in the name of New Mexico hospitality, the county took the cross off. For a while, the legend remained--In this sign we conquer-- proudly emblazoned over the grazing sheep. (!) Eventually, someone down at the county building in Albuquerque must have noticed the irony, because now there's just the sheep grazing on the hill and a Zia. No cross and no legend.

But back to what is and is not talked about in the voting line:
We do not talk about candidates by name, nor do we wear any T-shirts or campaign buttons.
In small towns, we have to get along long after the election is over. So the joking is mostly on the level of saying that we think we'll write in the totally politically incorrrect Coronado himself, or a neighbor, or the Rancho Verde cat that everybody feeds but nobody owns.

When they officially opened the doors to our precinct station, we filed past the poll watchers, who helped us find our numbers, and then we gave our name and address to the poll-worker. Sometimes they ask for an ID, although the Dems that run the state have made that illegal. You can just state your name and address. When a poll-worker asked for my ID--probably because I am registered third-party--I smiled and stated my name and address again. They gave me the ballot. I wrote down my ballot number as well as my registration number and page, before proceeding to vote.

New Mexico has gone to paper ballots. This is actually more efficient because we sit at study carrels and darken in the ovals with the pens provided. There is room for about 50 people to vote at once this way. So I sat down at the carrel indicated by the poll worker, and began to darken in ovals. It was a lengthy ballot, but I had looked up the ballot on line to plan my vote.

Aside from the presidential race, I mostly voted major-party for the Republicans, because I figure that if the projected coronation takes place, we'll need opposition in Congress. And there were no third party candidates anywhere else on the ticket anyway.

There was a long list of judges up for retention. There were a few I did not know about, so I left those blank. (I believe it is immoral to vote for or against someone I know nothing about). Most of the others are worthy of retention, with one noteable exception--the judge who sentenced a marine who defended his home and family from a crystal meth-crazed car thief at 2 AM to a felony because he shot the guy. I guess this judge thought the guy should have let the gang banger live to come back for revenge--maybe when the wife was home alone with the baby.

While I was mulling over this decision, I was also listening to the busy sounds of neighbors voting. In the old days of machines, the voting rooms were remarkably quiet. Not so, now that we are at carrals. An elderly man and his wife were loudly talking about this same judge. "Vote no for ______!" the wife said authoritatively. "He lets criminals out of jail."
"Too bad we can't vote out the mayor of Albuquerque," he responded. "That one is more interested in telling city workers that they can't have a candy-bar on break (not healthy enough, EHL) than in the fact that the armed burgulary rate is five per day, and the police are busy hassling elders for leaving the dog in the car for five minutes!"
"Vote against the incumbent for District Attorney,then." Said another voice. "She's the one who decided to prosecute (the marine)."

Well, I guess this couple did not wish to keep their entire ballot secret.

I continued down the list. On to the county bond issues, the mill-levy, the constitutional amendments, and the state bond issues.
The county bonds were mostly for things the county should do, not very expensive, and in one case, overdue. A few were not so good. The mill-levy was a continuance of support for UNM hospital that had been first voted on in 1957. The state bonds took even more consideration. Some would support services I use--but not everybody does. And on the other hand, all of them were expensive and the taxpayers are already in hock to the maximum. And we don't know what is going to happen with the economy. If Obama is elected, and keeps even a third of his promises to spend money the Federal government does not have, we'll be in so deep that people won't be able to pay.
So I voted against all of them.
The State's got to learn to live on what it has.

As I was checking my cheat-sheet about the constitutional amendments--some were good and some were not so good--I heard a woman behind me ask for a new ballot.
She had spoiled her ballot. She sounded frazzled, but the poll-workers reassured her and issued her a new ballot and a magnifying glass (cool, huh?); there was a little hub-bub about how to record the problem. It sounded exactly like a busy classroom.

As I continued to accept and reject specific constitutional amendments, someone came in and could not find his name on the list. I listened with interest as the poll-workers used a cell phone to call the county clerk, and then proceeded to check on how to issue a provisional ballot.
All in a day's work.

In New Mexico, the poll workers cannot turn you away ballotless. They must have you sign an affidavit that you have not voted yet, and then you can cast a provisional ballot. It will not be counted, however, until after it is confirmed that you have not voted elsewhere, and that you are a legitimately registered voter in the same county.
This is what delayed our returns during election 2004, when we were still voting with machines. But I'd rather have late returns so long as no one is disenfranchised and yet every vote is legitimate.
Given the state of patronage politics in New Mexico, however, I have serious questions about both.

Everyone at the precinct sounded awake and cheerful, not yet tired from the long day ahead at the precinct polling place. At 7:17 AM, I fed my ballot into the combination ballot-reader and locked ballot box. It read with no problem.
I had cast the 17th ballot in precinct 553. I wrote that down, too. In case of irregularities, I will go down to the county clerk's offices, as I did in 2000--when Gore won the state by just 400 votes--and be an unofficial watcher--to try to make sure the process is fair.

Now we just await the results.
Along with Rational Jenn, I Can't Look.
In New Mexico, this election will be close. And there is much at stake.

I hope there are no Ohios or Floridas this 'lection.
No hanging chads and pregnant bubbles.
It's going to be close nationwide. And the country is so divided . . .
And I worry about what ACORN may have done to fan the flames of division into a full-scale wildfire.

But I did my civic duty. Even though I have very little faith in the whole electoral process. Such as it is.

Here at Ragamuffin House, we have begun to prepare for the economic devastation of an Obama victory. But that's a different post.

Now. We. Wait.


Susan Ryan said...

Thanks for sharing your un-pc moments today. I appreciated them.
You know where I live and I have to say that I enjoyed seeing my neighbors today too. That was the only thing I really enjoyed about voting today.
I didn't get asked for my name...a fellow parish member just pulled out my sheet while telling me that my name didn't move too far down from my maiden name on the list. (2 R's). The poll worker that handed me my ballot graduated with me and was my best pal through high school.
I was next to my dear one while voting and said, WoW, these are really nice pens. Pat told me to stop trying to influence his vote, so I kept quiet after that. (Definitely not the same sort of conversation you heard, but still...)
I did set up a tentative dinner date with my old pal and told her I want to have a good time....especially after this election. Most laughed, some didn't.
They were running out of ballots and getting more. I overheard someone say that lots of teachers and high school seniors were voting. oh, boy...

Stephanie said...

I just wanted to let you know that I am honored to share a country with you. You, and KathyJo. I just hope it's a country that I'll still recognize in four years.

Amie said...

"pregnant bubbles" LOL

We also use plain old markers and paper ballots, and I like it that way.

"Coronation" is the right word, from what I hear.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know I'm reading and though I don't share your political views, I enjoy listening to your ideas. :-)

I hope the judge who convicted the marine for defending his family was resoundingly voted out of office. That is a disgrace.