Alex Blaze

"I voted!" open thread

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 04, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Atlanta, Barack Obama, election campaigns, Georgia, Jeremy Bishop, Monica Helms, voting, Washington, Washington D.C.

Consider this the open thread to talk about your voting experiences. I'll try to get first comment here in a minute.

TAVA president and frequent guest blogger Monica Helms sent us in a guest post about her early voting experience, and that's after the jump. Bilerico contributor Jeremy Bishop took some photos of "the view of the Washington, DC, residents braving a two-hour line to vote. Even when their vote really doesn't count. These pictures are of Watkins Elementary on Capitol Hill."



Three Hours to get my Peach

(Sung to the tune of the Gilligan's Island theme.)

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a faithful vote,

That started in this Southern State, on a day to wear a coat.

This girl is a mighty Democrat, who's never, ever late,

But, standing in that line that day, was a three hour wait,

A three hour wait."

Somehow, that song came to mind when I finally saved my selections on the computer and got my "I am a Georgia Voter" peach, three hours to the minute from when I first stood in line. In about three-quarters of the country, states have initiated early voting and Georgia is one of them.

The news told many stories about long lines and hours of waiting before people could get to vote. On Monday, October 27, is some parts of Georgia, people waited for seven hours to vote and in other parts, they waited ten hours. Tuesday and Wednesday the wait dropped to four hours in many places. I felt lucky for only having to wait three hours. The good thing about Georgia is that if you get in line before 7 PM, the polls will stay open until that last person votes.

I heard on the news earlier that the Florida Republican Governor, Charlie Crist, signed an executive order extending the polling hours and allowing people to vote on the weekend. He didn't want people to accuse Florida of having problems like what happened in 2000. Several Georgia officials have requested that we do the same thing here, but the Republican Secretary of State, Karen Handel, simply said, "It's against the Georgia law."

I'm not surprised that our state will do nothing to help more people get out and vote. Georgia has had a long history of doing whatever they could to disenfranchise voters and suppress their right to vote. We won't see our Republican Governor, Sonny Perdue, sign any executive order to help voters, because Republicans think that extending early voting will help Democrats.

I live in Cobb County and I had a polling location just down the street from where I worked, at the Cobb Galleria, so I got in the line right away. The temperature at the time was in the low 60s, but the day before, they had temperatures in the low 50s. The weather looked favorably down on me. I brought two sandwiches and ate one of them right away. Time: 5:20 PM EDT.

Shortly after getting in line, two women who worked for the sports bar Jocks and Jills came out with a cart of hot chocolate in cups. They wanted the voters to stay warm. We followed the line from one end of the long building to the other, then it came back to the middle of the build so we could go inside. Once inside, I saw that the line snaked from the doors to the other end of the long walkway, back to the doors and then back to the other end of the walkway. Time: 6:10 PM EDT.

"The massive line was way too long, and my legs might never hold

The only thought running through my mind was, 'It's hell getting old.

It's hell getting old'."

Before I got to the far end of the walkway the second time, I had eaten the second sandwich and talked with my mother. My new phone allowed me to go on line and when I did, I discovered my friend had won a contest. I also had a chance to read any new E-mails as soon as my phone received them. It took awhile, but I made it to the other end of the walkway a second time. Time: 7:00 PM EDT.

When I turned the corner from the long walkway, I discovered the line twisted and turned along the outside of the huge open area in the middle of the mall, sometimes snaking around the small shops in the middle. During this part of the wait, I listened to music and did some aerobic dancing, while standing in line. I also made some more phone calls and again read E-mails. After the long journey, I made it to the room that contained the voting machines, but I couldn't see them from that end of the room. Time: 7:50 PM EDT.

I reached the next step, a table where I had to fill out a form that would allow the computers to find my house and provide me an electronic voting card with the appropriate choices for my part of Cobb County. As I waited for the next person with a computer to be freed up, I talked with the polling volunteer at the head of the line. She told me that they had over 11,000 people who voted at that one polling place in Cobb County in the last three days. After seeing the line I had to stand in, I believed it.

The moment of truth arrived. I placed the card in the machine and up popped the first choice, my choice for President. With the eagerness of a school girl on her first date, I touched the screen and watched in delight as the "X" appeared next to Senator Barack Obama's name. After 22 months of listening to and watching campaign speeches, debates, political commercials, polls, pundits, commentators, right wing nuts, left wing nuts, lies, half truths, deceptions, outrageous statements, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, promises, a plunging economy and rising gas prices, I get to earn my "I am a Georgia Voter" peach. Damn, it was the hardest and most valuable voter peach I have ever earned. Time: 8:20 PM EDT.

"I finally made it to the end of this long, long voting line.

With Obama, and his VP, too. Jim Martin and his wife.

The voting star. The tax assessor and Mary Ann,

Here at the polling place."

It isn't over. I got to vote, but the end of this journey for the candidates is still on Tuesday, November 4, 2008, sometime late into the night. Democrats all across this country still need to get out and vote. I will be at a Georgia Democratic results-watching party someplace in Atlanta on that Tuesday night, cheering each time a state is placed in the Obama column. And, when Obama is declared the winner, the real works begins.

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I got up at 6 this morning and it took about 45 minutes to get through the line. They had two machines because there's never much turnout around here in the boonies in Indiana. It always goes Republican, we never see presidential ads, and no one cares.

My mother's school was a precinct and she said that they were required to have 150 open parking spaces since that precinct had 20% turnout in 2004. Well, There was 5 hour line by the time school let out, the press showed up, and there was no parking for people.

I don't think they'll call Indiana until long after 6 PM.

I woke up early this morning. I had a headache, felt weak in the knees, and was nauseous. These were either prodromal flue symptoms or my nerves had finally taken over. Alka-seltzer, a nap, and thoughts of a post vote coffee got me out of the apartment.

For the first time in as long as I can remember there was a police in the voting room. Weird. I live in a pretty non-confrontational building. Most of my neighbors are either not citizens or out of state grad students. There was a lot of buzz in the room, but I walked in, handed the judge my ID card - I have found that things go a lot quicker if you hand the judge a card whether or not it is officially needed - and was almost immediately escorted to a voting station. I was in and out in less than what 8 or 9 minutes.

I asked for an absentee ballot--early. There, I specified that I wanted that ballot sent to my Massachusetts address, not my Florida residence. Negligent amoebae they are, they sent my AB to my Florida address. I had to call my mother to pick it up and fill it in/send it for me. Everything turned out O.K., but I'm still annoyed by how the Elections Department guy I called to file a complaint said "have her send it to you". I probably got blocked after going to town on that shameless imbecile after he told me that.

I know, very mature behavior; but with the million ways voters are being kept from voting, I was irate. Especially from a county that's known to be Republican due to Cuban hegemony.

Here in Georgia we have been voting since end of September I cast my vote last month in October.So now its just wait and see who wins.Am I worried about my vote counting no Im confident all early votes were properly saved and ready to be counted today with the others when they start counting in a few minutes as the polls just closed here.

Karen Ocamb just sent me this:

From Jim Key, Communications Director for the LA Gay & Lesbian Center:

"While waiting to vote this morning I came face-to-face with bigotry and
ignorance I haven't experienced in so long and it really shook me up and
scared me re: the fate of Prop. 8.

The Black Obama supporter, right behind me in line, had been talking
really loudly on his cell phone the whole time we were waiting. Shortly
before we got to the voting booths, I heard him tell his buddy on the
phone "Damn right I'm voting yes on 8. I don't want my 9-year-old
growing up in no Sodom and Gamorrah!" And this is in Hollywood - from
an Obama supporter. :-(

Of course I challenged him on that - my face was so flush with anger -
but he wasn't listening - all he could say was "It's my opinion. It's
my opinion." He represents how far we may still have to go to change
public opinion."

From Christopher Cappiello - Associate Editor, IN Los Angeles magazine:

"At 6:20 a.m. The parking lot at West Hollywood Park had dozens of eager No
on 8 volunteers gathering to get their assigned polling place to go to. A
nasty drizzle wasn't enough to dampen spirits. In groups of three -- a
captain and two volunteers -- we went off to hand out palm cards and
encourage voters to vote NO at our assigned polling place. The campaign was
very organized, with packets for each location containing maps, notes on
parking, and even ideas on the best spots to stand for approaching foot
traffic. The NO on 8 folks were vigilant about emphasizing that we must stay
more than 100 feet from the entrance to a polling place. In my location --
the Beverly Hills Women's Center -- we kept a very safe distance, probably
closer to 200 feet.

Our goal at this late date was not to change any minds, but rather to
solidify the base and make sure there was no confusion about what a 'no' or
'yes' vote meant. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with some
incredible expressions of support from approaching voters. A favorite story:
A 40-something couple was approaching with their young son walking between
them hand-in-hand, obviously being brought along for a historic occasion. As
they got close, I held out a card and said, "Please vote no on Prop. 8," and
was unable to get out any more of my prepared shpiel before the father said,
'Absolutely. We are so with you!' As they passed, the boy -- probably about
6 -- asked, 'What's that for?' And the mother simply said, 'So that
everybody can get married.' I thought that was the perfect way to describe
what we were fighting for.

Were there unpleasant responses to our presence? Yes. One older woman
approached with her husband, and as soon as she knew I was encouraging her
to vote no on 8 she said, 'Yes! We're voting YES on 8. You're disgusting!
And what you're doing here is disgusting. You're not even supposed to be
here and I'm going to call the police.' I calmly explained that as long as
we were 100 feet from the door, we were perfectly legal. She insisted she'd
call the police anyway. From other voters, I learned that she did indeed
complain inside about me being there and was told I was within my rights by
the polling staff (with whom we had consulted at the beginning of the day so
they would know we were there). When she and her husband left, they went far
out of their way to cross the street and made no further fuss with me.
Several people threatened to 'call the cops.' Interesting how that's the
first response when people are challenged or made to feel uncomfortable.

Overall, I have to say, the response from voters was tremendous and a real
emotional lift. I am weary of having my life and relationship put up for a
vote, but it is very gratifying to see how many people are so supportive
and, really, loving about it. And so many people thanked US for coming out
and standing up for ourselves. One woman in her late-40s asked why we were
bothering at such a friendly polling place, and I explained that we weren't
out to change anybody's mind on Election Day, but rather to clarify any
confusion and 'to make you feel even better about voting no on 8,' at which
point she smiled a big smile and said, 'I do!'

At my own voting place in West Hollywood, the wait was only about 20-30
minutes around 10:30 a.m. There seemed to be a combination of excitement and
anxiety in the air.

And now we wait ..."

At 6:52pm today, I walked into my Precinct, as Voted, as the last person to do so.

No wait. No fuss. Kids all grinned when they saw me and the one older person scowled.

The precinct in which I voted was dominated by a large percentage of hispanic voters, and was typical of the very poorest of areas.

It was my precinct because my address of record -- which I did not change because I wanted to be sure to have as few problems as possible -- is the Halfway house for transfolk that I'm the Assistant Director and former house manager for.