I voted, and all I got was this lousy sticker

 

voting sticker

voting sticker

 

 

Except that in Washington State, I didn’t even get a sticker. And I realized a few things with this no-precinct voting process:

1. It’s the one time of year I like to stand in line. I mean sure, I don’t want to stand in line for hours, but a few minutes whilst I make my way to the front of the M-S line or whatever it is that year, nodding knowingly to my voting neighbors, performing our collective civic duty — that’s absolutely fine. Only to be let down dramatically in a few hours, but I wouldn’t be a Democrat if I wasn’t pessimistic, right? I suppose in Eastern Washington I would more likely be in line with Republicans, but perhaps not this exact neighborhood, next to the college. But I really enjoy seeing who lines up to vote — young parents with their children in strollers, couples dressed for work who made voting part of that day’s commute, older folks who look so excited for their candidate. I realize this is colored by years of voting in the DC metro area, but I saw these people in upstate New York, too. And I suppose they’ll line up a week from Tuesday. I’ll just have already voted with my paper ballot.

2. Early voting kind of sucks. So I voted earlier this week when I got back into town. I went back and forth on some of the statewide initiatives, especially the right to die initiative. But I filled in all my ovals circa my 1987 SAT exam, put it in a bright pink security envelope (which makes me think they know nothing about security — “yoo hoo, security over here, people! nice bright pink security!!”), and then in the mailing envelope, and then I took a trip to the post office since I had to sort of “see it off” personally. If people are stealing Obama lawn signs out here — and they are — I’m not leaving my vote sitting in my mailbox. But here’s what really nags at me for voting 10 days ahead: it’s over. Of course the campaign continues, poll numbers shift and evolve at every second, it seems, but I’ve done my business now and there’s nothing else I can do. Voting on election day lets me have my say at the proper end of the process — I’ve heard everything, seen everything, political news junkie that I am, and I’m responding, and my response will be counted in the precinct results and talked about by the likes of Brian Williams, Katie Couric, and all the others. But voting by mail is odd that way. I either get to wait to the last minute like before, or I get to have my vote counted ON election day, just not both. Washington’s Governor race was settled by about 130 votes last time, and those two personalities are battling it out again this year. So I want my vote in there by the time November 4 arrives. I put myself on the sidelines, understanding of course that I wasn’t going to change my opinion before the big day, anyway.

3. That mailing envelope I referred to earlier? No bulk postage on it, so I had to affix a stamp. Okay, I actually got a lot of pleasure out of writing “affix” just there, but back to the main point, I was kind of shocked I had to pay for my own postage. Isn’t that a kind of poll tax? I found out that I could have walked it directly to the election office, but I didn’t know that from any of the voting print materials, so I feel a little misled here. Surely the State of Washington can pony up another $120,000 so that everyone can send in their ballots without putting a stamp on the envelope. I mean, if Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes can do it, our government can. They’re even going to make someone a millionaire in the process! Sheesh.

This year’s election has set a record for early voting, for people newly registered, for online fundraising, and a whole host of other trends. I just wonder: if I feel like I’ve lost something with this no in-person process, I wonder if others are feeling it too, and I wonder how people younger than me, for whom this is their first or second election, will know if they’re even missing anything at all.

Edited to add: But don’t take my word for all of this, even the Washington Post agrees with me.

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