I seriously doubt I will write about politics again, as that is not the usual topic of my blog, but I felt that this was very important and needed to be exposed.
I voted this morning in Little Rock, Arkansas. And I got to witness racism and voter suppression first hand. Probably not in the way you would imagine. The racism was directed towards my very Caucasian-looking husband. The voter suppression was against every single person (mostly POOR people, I might add) in my polling place.
The first crazy thing I noticed: The man walking around the hallways with head-to-toe Obama gear. No one is allowed to endorse any candidate in the polling area or within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling area. This is called electioneering and is a misdemeanor. I heard of someone in another state being told they could not wear their college t-shirt that said MIT because people thought it was advocating Mitt Romney.
The next crazy thing is that Arkansas uses paper ballots and expects you to color in the circle next to who or what you are voting for. The circle has to be filled in JUST RIGHT, though. You can’t leave any white areas, so the circle must be completely filled in. However, you can’t fill it in TOO much and have any stray pen marks beside the circle. I have been voting in elections for 11 years and I have never used a paper ballot. What time period did I wake up in?
Crazy things number three and four happened when the time came to feed the 1960’s handwritten paper ballots into the machine. The machine wouldn’t take them. Ballot after ballot was rejected. Once a ballot was rejected, the voter would have to go stand in another line to get a new ballot, fill it out, and then get back in line to feed the ballot to the machine. Jay and I had to fill out a second ballot. After we did, we got to the back of the line. Silly me, I was thinking that was the polite, courteous thing to do.
Jay was a few people behind me, but pulled me out of the back of the line and brought me to the front after we noticed people going straight to the front of the line after they filled out their second ballot. If they can do it, so can we. There was a woman who had JUST gone to the front of the line, and Jay and I feel in place right behind her. Well, the man behind us got very angry when Jay and I followed suit and went to the front of the line. He said that he had been waiting, and we needed to go to the back like everyone else. Jay pointed out that several people (five, actually) had already gone to the front of the line. Then, he asked why the man said something to HIM, but not to the woman standing directly in front of us who had also cut. Or the four other people who had cut. I’m not sure what bullshit, half-assed answer the man gave, but I know what the REAL answer was: Jay and I are white. The other people who had gone to the front of the line were black. The man protesting was black.
I live in a very racially charged town. Not racist because “the white man” is always coming down on “the black man”. Jay and I have experienced racism because we are white in a mostly black town. We get passed over when we go donate our plasma because of our race. We got bullied out of line and pushed back because of our race. We get poor customer service because of our race. We are thought to be stupid and guliable, and have been taken advantage of many times over because of our race.
Jay called the guy out on it. He pointed out that, because he was white, the people waiting in line had issues with him going to the front, even though the polling official confirmed that one should go back to the front of the line after filling out additional ballots. We thought that was the end of THAT, but then the angry guy who told Jay to get to the back felt the need to slam his shoulder into Jay’s when he walked past us. Nice. Real nice.
Jay walked out after that. His vote was cast, and he was afraid there may be a fight if he stayed and waited for me.
While I was waiting in line for the THIRD time to attempt to vote, the next crazy thing happened. I heard someone say that an election official had been telling everyone that they would be able to fill out up to three ballots. If they filled out three ballots and the machine STILL refused to accept them, then they had lost their chance to vote. Umm, excuse me? They cannot take away our vote! Those polling officials have no actual power. I know this because I was a polling official in the last presidential election. They are just people with name tags who tell you where to sign and where to stand in line.
So, the people at the polling place I voted at are trying to use malfunctioning machines to count our votes (which makes me wonder WHICH votes will actually count), then, when the machine refuses to work, they are telling us that we will lose our voice in this very important election. Smells like voter suppression, with a little side of racism, to me!