Monday, January 23, 2006

Voting in my riding... (a.k.a. my Twilight Zone)

Like any good citizen I went to cast my ballot in the national election today.

When I got to my voting station, I told the 20-something man at the front table that I hadn’t received my voter’s card. “What should I do?” I asked.

“Do you know your last name?” He asked me.

I stared at him for a second and then replied, “Did you just ask me if I know my own last name?”

“Er….” He said, realizing what he’d done. “Yes.”

“I do.” I said, giving him my last name. I was thinking to myself, “My God, not only do we let people like you vote, we hire you to work during the election? Brilliant…”

I did not voice my thoughts.

“O.K.” He replied. “And… do you know where you live?”

“As a matter of fact, I do!” I said. And I told him.He shuffled through some papers and then directed me to one of the tables in the room.

I went over and explained the situation. They looked me up on their sheet and the man sitting at that table said, “Oh yes… Here you are… And according to this… You have already voted.”

“I have?” I asked. “Um… well… actually… no… I haven’t. And here’s my driver’s license, saying I am who I say I am.”

“Oh!” He exclaimed, looking at his papers again. “Well, it says here that you’ve already voted… Oh, no… Wait a minute… No, it says you’ve been deleted.”

“Deleted?” I asked.

“Well… yes.” He replied. “Have you moved?”

“No.”

And clearly, I was not deceased, either.

“Hhmmm….” He said. “I think I need a Supervisor.”

(You need more than that, I thought. But again, I kept my thoughts to myself.)

A Supervisor was brought over. It was someone I knew! He was a student I’d had in an adult education Spanish class some years ago.

He appeared not to recognize me, though.

He looked at the documents, checked my driver’s license and then said, “Hhhmm… I need to call this one in to find out what to do. Come with me, please.” I was escorted out of the voting room.

As we walked out of the room, I said, “Have you ever taken Spanish?” I knew the answer, but I wanted to see what he’d say.

“Yes,” he replied, looking at me with surprise. “How did you know?”

“I was your teacher.”

He looked at me again and said, “Oh! Sarah! It’s… been a long time.”

“Yes, it has… maybe eight or nine years?”

“Something like that. Well, let’s see if we can’t get this sorted out so you can vote.”

He ushered me over to a phone, pulled a business card out of his breast pocket and dialed the number on it. As he was dialing he said, “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you. You’ve lost some weight… A good deal of weight?”

“Yes,” I said. I am always shocked when people say they don’t recognize me for that reason. I see me every day, so I suppose that I don’t notice much change. But I must confess, I do appreciate it when people tell me they’ve noticed. It’s encouraging.

At least he didn’t say, “Oh, it’s been eight or nine years and your hair wasn’t so grey back then.”

At least it wasn’t that.

And in fact, his reason for not recognizing turned out to be the highlight of my time at the polling station.

After the phone call, he was Authorized to allow me to vote. I was unceremoniously handed a registration form, which I had to fill out to confirm that I was who I said I was. Then I was allowed to go and mark my X on my ballot.

But not until I had proven that:

  • I knew my last name.
  • I knew where I lived.
  • I was able to effectively argue that I had not already voted.
  • I did not deny that I was not already deceased.
  • I had, for all intents and purposes been “deleted” by the government.
  • I patiently waited for Authorization that would allow the electoral staff to “un-delete” me and permit me to vote.

As I write this, I do not know the final results of the election. But I confess that this morning's events have not inspired confidence in me.

20 comments:

Bast said...

$300 million bucks, baby. That's what you, me and every other Canadian paid for that stunning display of efficiency from Elections Canada. So by my reckoning, it actually cost me $9.38 to cast that ballot, and $1.75 went to the Greens. That's over $10. Who said democracy was cheap?

Janice said...

Hi Sarah,

Let's home next time they don't desidde your deceased.

In the States because of all the red tape, it's really hard for them to make you alive again on paper!

Janice~

ipodmomma said...

wow, that was a little bit of funny... both ha ha and strange...

but you voted, that's a good thing. and you received a compliment of sorts...

I suppose it wasn't all bad...

ipodmomma said...

and... you do know you are you...

that's a good thing too... :)))

madcapmum said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
madcapmum said...

This is so silly, I'm going to have to link to it, Sarah.... if you're sure you're Sarah... can I see some proof of that please?

M A F said...

Sarah, I posted (my last post?) on the election, complete with the results and a few comments on my observations.

Come have a look.

William said...

Go BLUE!!!!

Ha, funny story that. I wish all tests were that easy, I would have aced High School!

A. said...

I would imagine that the Voter Assistants who helped you had probably run into voters who did not acutally know their address or, in the some cases, their names. I know it sounds silly, but that programming must have come from some bizarre past experience in the voting world.

I just hope that at least one of them thought to ask the question, "Why is this woman's name deleted already?" Once you've voted, would that not seem important? Did someone miss a line or will you always have this problem? I mean really -- why did not get a voting card in the first place?

Then again, those questions are rather forward thinking and require that the person asking them is confident that you know everything about yourself (apparently, that was not a reasonable assumption to make last night).

hmph.

Good thing you won't have to do this again any time soon.

grannyfiddler said...

isn't beurocracy fun. a friend of mine was told she was deceased when she applied for her S.I.N. at the ripe old age of 16... and i was told once by my bank that the reason my deposits weren't going through and my cheques were being bounced was that i was supposed to be using the NEW card i'd got when i took out my mortgage with them. i had no mortgage - with them or anyone else. so, because there was no money in my account, they were taking my loan payments out of my 6-year-old daughter's savings account!

i love living in a small town. the 'officers' knew everyone who came through. i didn't need the card.

BUT :o) they can't delete your vote. and that's what you went for.

zouzou said...

Hee hee. My registration table had a deaf gaffer at it.

The idiocy that ensued had to be seen to be believed when I tried to explain I didn't have my election card and tell him my last name. Poor thing, I don't think he'd ever met anyone that wasn't called Jones or Smith.

The other wierd thing they did was to have one ballot station per little street grouping table - rather than a group of them in the centre or back of the room. So if one table got busy, it slowed down the whole process while people waited for one-vote-at-a-time rather than just finding the next empty station. I guess these guys aren't exactly logistics geniuses. or any other kind, for that matter. That's when I get alarmed that I'm living in a democracy.

Turtle Guy said...

isn't it funny how life isn't perfect all the time.

Anonymous said...

That's just insane!

Gary said...

What a well written story! And funny too (well, perhaps not at the time).

Thanks!

Gary said...

I meant 'Gracias!'

Granny said...

At least you voted. A couple of years ago the Republican (boo hiss) were registering people to vote who thought they were registering as Democrats. All they were doing was changing a mailing address or something and got to the primary elections to find out their party had been changed.

It wasn't ignorance, it was fraud but very hard to prove.

So now of course we have the Shrub.

robtherunner said...

The sarcasm was pretty thick in that post and I think they deserved it. I was laughing while I was reading through it.

Joyce said...

what a funny story! isnt it astonishing all the trouble you have to go to sometimes!

psbowe said...

Holy cow! Do they really have to ask you those questions?
How awesome on the weight loss too!

Elliot said...

We in the States have adopted that successful Canadian show and renamed it "Voting In Florida." It too is a hoot, but I must confess, it has a bad ending.