Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama in a Landslide! Well, at least in my little precinct.

I'm completely zonked from my fifteen hour bout with democracy (Democracy won, by the way). I'll keep this short and sweet--small precinct in a liberal city? Polls open at seven, lines out the door, polls closed at eight, one or two stragglers wandering in to vote while we began the laborious process of accounting for every piece of paper and every odd voter preference (did you know that we have to manually go through every ballot to make sure no one's odd "write in" preference for "King Midas" or "can't decide" goes uncounted?) 1600 some recorded votes. I took a look at the tape of the computer results at the end and it was (approximately, since my eyes were bad and I was tired) 429 for Clinton, 840 for Obama, *47* for McCain and *41* for Romney. Why yes, I live in a majority Democratic state. "Unenrolled" voters can choose to vote for any party and we offered them a choice of four: Dem, Rep, Working Families and Green Rainbow. If you wanted Green some other color (and there is some other Green party) you were out of luck.

There were two interesting incidents--Russian woman who was not registered to vote at the apartment where she said she lived threw an absolute fit with me and accused the Democratic party of a stalinist grasp of power. She claimed her registration must have been deep sixed because she wouldn't vote lockstep with the Democratic party and she left threatening to sue. She was aggressive. On the other side of the aisle, lets call her "passive agressive" was a Green-Rainbow voter from Canada who looked like an untidy flower pot with red hair poking up at all angles under an indescribable green burlap hat. She was furious--in a whiny candadian way--and informed me that four years ago at a different primary she had been unlawfully *forced to choose a party* and when she voted for Nader (I presume) she had been forced to also choose the Green Party as her designation. She hadn't noticed that and had never reclaimed her independent status and so when she came in and demanded a Democratic Ballot she was told she could only vote for the Green Party candidates. I explained to her that she hadn't been lied to. Primary rules are set by the Parties and not by popular demand. in the 2004 election the rule was that parties let "unenrolled" or "independent" voters elect to join the party at the primary and vote for their candidate. But they had to officially join the party. Now the rule has been changed and if you are *unenrolled* you can choose the ballot you want without giving up your independent status. Different elections, different rules. She was shocked--proper care of her had not been taken. This would never happen in Canada where she would have been cossetted and cared for and her every step would have been explained to her over and over. I smiled and forebore to say "f*ck you green nader babe, you're in the capitalist cannibal nest we like to call the U.S. of A and not nobody here is going to spend a dime sending you thoughtful updates about your electoral status."

But here's the bottom line. I voted for Obama, my husband voted for Obama, and both my parents voted for Obama. He did well in the precinct where I worked, and probably quite well (but I don't know) in the carriage trade precinct where I vote and my parents vote. So if we were at all representative he would, indeed, have won in a landslide. but as MG says--we're not representative, apparently, because he didn't win mass in a landslide.

We are not supposed to know, or see, how people are voting while they are voting and we are not to look at the ballots while we are sorting and classifying them looking for those odd write in candidates and we really stuck by that rule. I can't say I know at all how anyone voted in my precinct except the few old family friends who talked to me over my objections while they were picking up their ballots and the Obama supporters who had to be reminded to take their buttons off while in the polling place. But a huge proportion of our voters were "unenrolled" and their reactions yesterday were pretty interesting to watch. Some are shocked and even offended when you ask them what ballot the want. Democrat! they say furiously, like you've insulted them by implying they would ever do anything else. The ones who took an "R" ballot, on the other hand, were uniformly resentful--either of you or of their choices. I couldn't figure out whether that was because they would ordinarily have taken a "D" vote and were crossing over to vote for McCain or Romney because they couldn't stomach voting for a woman or a black or whether they always chose an R and were pissed to be in the minority. Some new voters were stumped--they'd come in to vote for a *candidate* and hadn't realized that the candidate runs inside a party primary. So I had to send a few obama supporters to the wall to look at the ballots before they came back and announced that they wanted a Dem ballot. Lots of people turned out to vote in this primary who had actually moved--if it was within six months they could still vote their old precinct--but some who had moved years ago and never re-registered, some who had just moved from out of state and hoped we had same day registration, some who didn't realize that you had to register at all, some who didn't realize that being registered in one state, for one election, didn't mean you could vote anywhere and any time.

I thought this election would be historic and I suppose it was, but I didn't see the huge excitement and giggly happiness that I thought I would see. There's so much calculation in everyone's vote, and so much riding on it, I think. The one conversation I had with a voter that must closely mirrored my own experience was an old family friend of ours who came in and took a dem ballot and said he was going to "write in a candidate"--he said "Obama is too nice for me, and Hillary isn't mean enough, and I wanted the other guy [edwards] who I thought was just nice enough and promised to be mean to the right people." I begged him not to tell me any of this stuff since I was officially Non partisan for the day but I had to laugh because this so exactly mirrored my own feelings.

But in any event I wanted to say "What Digby Said." You all should hop over and read the long comment from a Digby reader that Digby has frontpaged today. And every bit of analysis over there today and yesterday. Her macrocosmic view is much more accurate than my microcosmic one.