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Aggravations at the polling place

June 12, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
The things I have done to vote.

This morning I went to vote at my local polling place and handed the election worker my ID and gave her my address. The puzzled frown on her face was my first clue that things weren't likely to go smoothly. At first it seemed that my address wasn't in the system, despite the fact that I have lived at the same address and voted at the same location for the past six years. Then it sounded like they had an Andrea Johnson in the ward, but perhaps had put the wrong Andrea Johnson at my address.

There are at least four of them, all with distinguishing middle names, though I happen to know that there is at least one in the area with my first, middle and last names. A collection agency confused me with her a few years ago and it took some doing to straighten it out. An area sheriff mistook me for a lawbreaking Andrea Johnson around the same time and I had to prove my identity to him too. There are a lot of reasons I would not be pleased to discover that the city has melded my file with some other Andrea Johnson.

"It happens sometimes," one election worker told me with a shrug. How well do I know it. This is not the first time my name has been mysteriously purged from the system. I've had to register as a so-called "new voter" at least twice before. I've wondered if the election workers have mistakenly erased my name instead of some other Andrea who has moved away. It probably didn't help this time that the polling place had only four elderly election workers handling a large crowd or that the system is new. None of this was their fault.

However, it also occurred to me that election workers might be more likely to mistakenly remove apartment residents from the rolls, since they are a more mobile population and it might be easier to mistake one person with a similar name with another. It's easy to understand how that could happen if it's true, but it's also problematic in all sorts of ways that irritate me. These frequent errors are probably among the reasons I have never been called for jury duty. I know that they draw the jury pool from people who have voted in past elections. If election workers do happen to be more likely to mistakenly purge the names of apartment dwellers, it means those people are less likely to be called to serve on juries, which also means that the jury pool may be biased in favor of financially stable home owners instead of less well-off apartment and trailer park residents. I hope I am all wrong about that. Of course, the other reason I might not be called for jury duty is that I am a reporter and I would assume that the people vetting the jury pool might recognize my name.

All of these thoughts flashed through my mind while I stood in line, waiting to do my civic duty. Since the election workers couldn't find my information anywhere in the system, they decided that I needed to be registered as a "new voter," which required that I stand in yet another line. This election worker, too, had trouble figuring out how to enter me as a new voter and was befuddled by the existence of the several other Andrea Johnsons. Was I sure my middle name is not Marie? No, though it seems that half the women who were born the same year I was were given that middle name. Most of the rest had the middle names Ann or Lynn, neither of which belong to me.

After he requested the assistance of two other elections workers, I was finally listed as a "new" voter and allowed to get in the long line waiting to be given a ballot. Then, after I filled out the ballot, I stood in yet another line behind an elderly woman who had somehow managed to make the machine beep forbiddingly. The election worker told her her ballot was no good and she would have to go back and fill out another one. That probably added another 10 or 15 minutes to her trip to the polls. Machines hate me, so I expected it to beep for me too. Luckily, the machine decided to graciously accept my ballot and I was able to leave, proudly sporting my "I made freedom count. I voted" sticker.

And, despite the aggravation, I'll do it again in November, even if it means I have to register as a "new voter" again in the town where I have lived and voted for nearly 20 years. I owe it to all the people who suffered so I could exercise that right.


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