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Super Tuesday – Not So Super

It’s been a big week. If variety is the spice of life, we’re certainly living. Monday was the hangover from the Super Bowl, especially for Giants’ fans. Thursday was the Chinese New Year. But Tuesday was the biggest day of the week. As always, I voted. Or rather, I tried to vote. I wasn’t able to cast a vote for the future president. I’m a registered independent. Or I was a registered independent when I lived in Massachusetts. But here in California I’m registered as “American Independent.” What is “American Independent?”

Before I explain what “American Independent” is, I seek an explanation as to why my voting location keeps rotating. It was the third church I’ve voted at in the three years I’ve lived here in Santa Monica. The Catholic church directly across the street was convenient, but last time I voted at the Methodist church on Washington, so I headed there. The nice workers sent me to the Baptist church on California Avenue. This confused me. Not the denominations, but the fact that every time I vote I have to go to a new church.

When I finally arrived at the right church, I had to wait. The man in front of me was getting directions, he too assumed he’d be voting in the same prior location. If there’s a good reason to change locations every time you collect votes, please tell me.

The nice man who greeted me sent me to the orange table. “OC!” was all I could think. When I signed in, a nice crabby lady asked, “Libertarian?”

I shook my head no. “Independent,” I said.

“Right, American Independent.”

I didn’t know if the nice crabby lady was being cheeky or not by calling me “American” Independent but I had already lost time going to the wrong church so I shuffled over to pick up my ballot at the table she pointed me to. The entire time I wondered why they picked citrus colors for the voting tables. What happened to good ol’ red, white, and blue? I miss Massachusetts.

I picked up my ballot, prepared with my candidate and list of propositions. A really weird thing happened. I didn’t recognize many of the names on the presidential ballot. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know who was running. I flipped though the various parties; it had no Democratic or Republican candidates. I’ve lived in LA for a while now, so I’ve seen some freaky occurrences, but this topped everything. I went back to the original table to ask. Cranky lady told me I couldn’t change my party affiliation the day of an election, and pointed me away from the orange table. I said that I didn’t want to change anything, that I’ve been a registered independent for years. “The man in the hat can help you,” said Cranks.

The man in the hat was on his cell phone. He’ll go down in history as the man on his cell phone, because during our entire conversation, the cell phone didn’t leave his ear. I started to let him know there was a problem. And he interrupted me with a loud phone voice.

“You can’t a change your party today,” cell phone man said in an accusing, self-righteous tone.

“I know that,” I said, “but she said that you would know where to call to change back to the party I should be registered with now.”

“Oh,” cell phone man said, “you can take this form, and look, the postage is paid for already. [Hint – leave now.] Fill it out and send it in, it’ll be ready for the June election.” June election? Who’s running for president in the June election?

I started to wonder if anyone was really on the other end of the phone, because whoever it was must have had enormous amounts of patience. Or he was faking me out. I asked cell phone man what “American Independent” was. He said “George Wallace started it years ago around desegregation issues, in the fifties.”

I thought George Wallace was dead.

I asked how I was added to George Wallace’s party affiliation without me knowing. He said, “California does things differently.”

Like I didn’t know that already.

He added that when my records were transferred, a worker must have seen “independent” and assumed I belonged in the political party American Independent, rather than non-partisan. In the Golden State, independent means non-partisan. Which makes me Irish-American non-partisan. The two-party system makes perfect sense in moments like these. I no longer had the energy to inquire from cell phone man whether he was bothered by knowing my vote wouldn’t be counted due to either somebody’s careless mistake or bad decision. He pointed to the booth at the far end of the room.

I obediently proceeded to my booth. After voting on the propositions I returned to the presidential candidates. It seemed like such a shame not to be able do anything. How many of me are there today? I contemplated voting for Ralph Nader, but left the presidential ballot empty and moved on with a sinking feeling in my stomach, thinking about the surreal disaster of Floriduh.

A tradition for Chinese New Year is to sweep out all the old dust and clutter in preparation for the new year. The theory is to let the new energy in. Perhaps the folks in charge of voting procedures should think about it. Or maybe they’re out celebrating Mardi Gras. I just hope the kinks are worked out when November rolls in. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of the sign the church put up for the occasion. It read: “Get HOPE.”

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