On election day, my husband was preparing to take our youngest to school about the same time I was preparing to go vote before heading to work. He let the dog out to potty and then opened the hatchback of his car for her to jump in. She loves to go with him.
As I approached the polling place, my phone rang. It was my husband.
“Did you vote?” he asked.
“I’m on my way to vote,” I said. “Why?”
His voice conveyed his agitation as the words tumbled out. “Rose got sprayed by a skunk! She was in the car and then she got sprayed!”
“She got sprayed while she was in the car?!” I interrupted.
“No! She was in the car and then I went in to tell Hal something and she apparently saw a skunk. I don’t have time for this. I have to get Hal to school!”
“Do you want me to do something,” I asked hesitantly, glancing down at my nice dress clothes and crossing my virtual fingers.
“No,” he finally said. “Just go ahead and vote. I’ll figure it out. I’m just going to leave her outside right now.”
“Ok, honey. I love you.”
With that, I got out of the car and entered our polling station to vote. It was about 7:30 in the morning, 30 minutes after they opened.
I should explain that I live in Texas and my polling place is in a sparse rural area. The Democrats always have the table to the right of the entrance, right next to the wall. The Republicans have the more prominent spot in the center of the room to the left of the entrance.
I am an independent. I have never registered for a political party and for years never voted in a primary because of that. But in Texas, if you want to have a say, it has to be in the Republican primary. At least for now, whoever wins that goes on to win the general election. And there were some local races that I had opinions on.
“Republican or Democrat?” asked one of the Republican pollsters. There were two each, a man and a woman from each party.
I gave the same nuanced answer that I always give: “I’m voting in the Republican primary.”
The Republicans looked harried. They were rifling through boxes that were stacked on the table.
“Can I see your ID?” asked the Republican woman.
I showed it to her; she looked me up in her list, and then highlighted my name.
“I need you to sign in,” she said, motioning to the roster before resuming her search through the boxes.
I don’t know how it is other places, but our roster has three columns: one for what I assume is a unique number, one for your printed name, and one for your signature. The signature block is upside down. The idea is that they don’t have to turn the roster back and forth. Instead, they write in your number and print your name. And then you just sign from your side of the table, making your signature upside down as compared to your printed name.
Now, I didn’t remember this clearly when she told me to sign my name. I looked down at the roster and there was one name already there with a signature that I couldn’t read. She didn’t write my name or my number and the paper was backwards. The printed name was facing me and the signature was upside down. As I tried to remember how it worked (since I wasn’t receiving direction), I thought maybe the polling person signed that I was who I said I was. Seems silly now but I’m really not supposed to be left to my own devices on this.
I printed my name below the other person’s name and asked if they were going to write a number in for me. I guess they didn’t hear me because she just asked, “Do you want paper or electronic?”
They seemed so frenzied that I responded, “Whichever is easier for you I suppose.”
“Electronic would be easier, I think” was her response. Followed by: “I don’t know how to do electronic. I don’t know how to work the machine!” She sounded a little panicked and she was talking to her fellow Republican pollster, not me.
“I’ll show you how to do it,” he said and walked to the other end of the room. She didn’t follow him but I did. After receiving my strip of paper and confirming that I had done this before, I waited for the other voter to finish. And listened to the conversation.
“I just don’t know where they are. I can’t find them!” he said.
“Did you look in the car?” she asked.
“Yes! They aren’t there.”
The Democrats were more relaxed. One of them asked, “What are you looking for?”
“The ballots. The paper ballots.”
My eyes went wide.
The Democrat patted a large metal box in front of him and said, “They should have been in a box. Like this one.”
I finished my voting and prepared to leave. The Republicans were still searching and setting up. Very busy. I smiled at the Democrats. “Have a nice day!” I said to the room.
“You look familiar,” said the Democrat man.
The Democrat woman responded to him, “Of course she does! She’s been here before. Many times.”
I smiled and said, “I recognize you too. You’ve been here all those times.”
We exchanged a few niceties and then I went out to my car. As I backed out of the parking space, I pressed the screen on my dashboard to call my husband. I didn’t really want to help with the stinky dog, but figured I should check in.
Just as he answered, the Republican woman came running out of the building waving her arms. “Wait! Wait!”
I rolled down my window. The Democrat woman was trailing behind her. The Republican said, “You didn’t sign the roster!”
“Oh, ok,” I said, pulling back in to park. “You had it upside down,” I then muttered, finally working out in my mind what was supposed to have happened.
The Republican sagged in relief.
Meanwhile, the Democrat had returned to the building, retrieved the Republican roster and a pen, and was now hurrying to my car. “Here,” she said. “You can just sign it out here so you don’t have to go back in.”
“Thanks,” I said, taking the paper and signing it although, I realized right as I did it, without turning it upside down first. So there I was, the second name on the voting roster and my name was going to be backwards of everyone else’s. Assuming they started running the table properly. Otherwise, maybe I set the tone and everyone followed suit.
I can’t know this for sure, but I can’t help but think that the friendly exchange with the Democrat caused her to go glance at the roster to see my name. And that she’s the one that pointed out to them that my signature was missing.
All’s well that ends well, I suppose. I hope they got their act together. When I called my confused husband back after having hung up on him the previous time, he let me off the hook on returning home to help with the stinky dog. And he later told me that by the time he got there that afternoon, at least, they had found the paper ballots.