Early Voting, Two Vignettes

With the August 2 election in the rear view mirror, I’d planned to write a column about funny things voters say to those of us who work for the election commission. It was to be a bulleted list of a dozen or so amusing remarks I’d heard over the past several weeks. But on the next-to-last day of early voting, two things happened that deserve a column all their own.

Early that morning, a hard-of-hearing voter completed her initial paperwork at my co-worker Lisa’s station. The lady proceeded to the signature list table in the big room and turned to the voters behind her in line.

“Are you good Republicans?” she asked in a very loud voice. A worker politely reminded her that the polling place is a politics-free zone. “Well, I’m a good Republican,” the voter said. “But I voted for a Democrat once. John F. Kennedy in 1960.” Again, she received a polite request not to talk politics. “OK, then,” she said, turning again to the couple behind her. “Are you good Methodists?” Being a good Methodist myself, I couldn’t quit laughing. Every time other folks whom I know to be good Methodists walked through the door that day, I got tickled.

Late that afternoon, a man who looked a little uneasy stood before Lisa’s station. She pulled his voter ID number up on her computer and asked him to confirm his address.

“It’s complicated,” he replied.

“This is what we have listed for you,” Lisa said. She read him the address.

“That’s a valid address,” he said.

“Is it where you live?”

“It’s complicated.”

“Sir,” Lisa said in her ever-patient way. “The elections you’re entitled to vote in are based on your legal residence. Is this your residence?”

The voter shifted from one foot to another. “It’s complicated,” he said for a third time. “Sometimes I live there. Sometimes I live at my mother’s house.”

Lisa raised one eyebrow ever so slightly. “Which address do you live at most often?” she asked.

“It’s hard to say,” he replied. “I don’t really keep a record of where I sleep when.”

In the end, after a good deal more back-and-forth conversation, the voter confirmed that the address we have on record is his official residence. And I, being an always-curious newspaper columnist even when I’m working the election, was left to wonder what all must be going on in this man’s life that he couldn’t decide where he really lives.

(August 5, 2018)