I did something absurd the other day. I bought a literally last-minute roundtrip airfare from New York to Los Angeles just to vote. While living in New York for several years, I've stubbornly insisted on keeping my residency on the West coast with every sincere intention of moving back there. But it was iffy at best. On the last possible day, October 20th, I re-registered to vote with some trepidation.
At the eleventh hour, I received a "robo call" as they're now calling it, from the LA county clerk's office saying that I had been registered to vote but it was too late to obtain a sample ballot or any accompanying paperwork. I called the county's voter hotline and then double-checked online that I was, without (supposedly) a doubt on the voter rolls in Los Angeles county.
Before the election, Tim Robbins appeared on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher decrying the use of provisional balloting and extolling viewers to refuse them. Robbins urged voters to document any perceived fraud at the polls and demand their given rights at the polling place. Of course there was inherent risk in my voting jaunt that family and friends warned could be fruitless. But I had triple confirmation. The robo call, the actual call to the county office, and a successful query on the somewhat efficient website lavote.net.
Yet when I arrived at the polling place in Long Beach, my name was not on the rolls. Tim Robbins' dire warning had come true. The poll workers told me not to fret and that if I could just "step aside" while everyone else voted, I could attempt to file a provisional ballot. TTrying not to lose my cool, I explained to a poll worker that someone very famous I'd seen on television had claimed that provisional ballots often get thrown out. The worker said to me "don't believe what you hear on TV, we'll eventually count your ballot." I didn't feel it prudent to tell the polling place people how far I'd traveled to vote and what it had cost me. I then found it beyond ironic that after touching back down in New York, I checked the Google news aggregator on my Blackberry for the latest results to read that none other than Mr. Robbins was asked to cast a provisional ballot.
Flying back to California to cast a vote for Barack Obama may seem harebrained to some but after seeing so many Pakistanis genuinely risking their lives to vote earlier this year and realizing that millions of Afghans were about to do the same in 2009, it seemed like a simple task by comparison. Whether my vote was actually counted, I may never know.
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