Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote 2008

Voting day!

Back in Canada I used to be so happy on Election Day, and why wouldn't I be? During any given election you're deciding between candidates from a dozen parties, so you're generally able to find a niche that precisely reflects your given political bent. More to the point though, since one often winds up with a minority government, you generally have a good chance of having your view actually represented in Ottawa. So it pays to vote, so to speak.

Since moving to the US, my voting experiences have been a mixed bag. I have generally found it to be more challenging, since there really are only two viable parties, and I cannot stand firmly behind either. The end result is that I generally cast my vote based on which candidate is most aligned with my beliefs, i.e., I take a "lesser of two evils" approach. Not that my vote has counted for much: in the first election after my arrival, I wasn't registered because I hadn't gotten an American driver's license yet. Then, in the second election, after 4 hours and a dent inflicted to my car in the polling station parking lot, my vote was discarded due to a clerical error- as reported to me a few months later via post.

To set the record straight and ensure success this time around, I awoke bright and early this morning to grant myself enough time to put in a full work day and get to the polls before they closed. When I arrived at the polling station, I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet and orderly the place was. Row upon well-marked row faced me, and it took less than a minute to locate my row, have them find my name and sign, and then escort me to the booth. I was very thankful when the proctor asked if it was my first time voting. I was taken aback for a second, since nobody had ever asked me that question before, even when it was indeed my first time voting at the tender age of 18. But then I figured that's their way of asking if you're familiar with their polling system. So I said it was the first time I was voting in New York, and she told me to come with her.

Boy, was I glad that I replied like I did, because when she pulled back that curtain, I was so surprised by the old-school machine. Every other time I've voted, it was either on a paper ballot (yeah, I'm that old) or a touch screen. Yet there I was, facing this huge wall of levers. She explained that I had to pull the handle to the right, then turn the lever that correlated to my selection to the left, and when I was done, to return the handle back to the left to record my answers. Then she went out, and I found myself mesmerized by the wall of levers. I began to clue in that the same candidates were reiterated across parties, so I could choose them for one party over another; I had never seen that before. I also noted that while I could make up to 8 selections for Senate, there were only 10 candidates in total, so what was the point of that?

Anyhow, I was almost done when my proctor called over the curtain whether I needed help because there was a time limit. Time limit????? Believe me, you can't tell a Yekki that there is a time limit and not have him/her panic. Thankfully I was almost done, and just had Proposition 1 to finish. After quickly deciphering Proposition 1 I became vaguely alarmed; how is it that a proposed amendment that impacts disabled veterans didn't make it into 10 seconds of the news during the entire campaign? I mean, here I was voting on a bill that could change the lives of those who fought to defend the rights, freedoms, and safety of Americans and paid with their health as a result, yet nobody had bothered to educate the public about the bill! Thinking about how important Remembrance Day was in my youth, I couldn't shake the feeling that I must be really old-school, because I was bothered by the lack of media coverage. When did people stop caring about those who took duty seriously? I cast my selection, flung open the curtain (hey, people were waiting), and exited the booth.

And felt a wave of happiness that I had fulfilled my civic duty, a feeling that I haven't experienced in a very long time.

This morning during davening, I asked Hashem to please elect the candidate who would be best for yiddin both here and world-wide. I then asked that if that candidate should not end up being elected, that Hashem should please protect us from persecution, discrimination and any of the other items on the long laundry list of measures that have been implemented against yiddin throughout history- or any newly devised plans/measures...

It should only be so, bli ayin hara!

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