Tonight is Election Night in Canada, so I stopped by the local polling station after work to perform my civic duty.
The Lovely Claire had previously told me via Instant Messenger that she couldn’t find the enumeration cards, so I didn’t bother to stop at home to pick those up. “Not to worry,” she reassured me, “just show them your driver’s license.”
Upon my arrival at the elementary school gym where the voting was taking place, the friendly volunteer at the door directed me to the nearest table. This, she explained, was where people would look up the correct polling station for me. As I waited in line, one of the two guys ahead of me was telling the lady at the table that he had already voted, but was accompanying his unregistered friend to help him translate. Meanwhile, the non-english speaking friend eyed me suspiciously.
When my turn came, I gave the man staffing the table my address, which he looked up using a stack of printed pages. “Booth 85,” he announced. The lady seated next to him proceeded to flip through a second stack of pages supposedly associated with station 85.
“Are you sure it’s booth 85?”
“Lemme check again,” replied her cohort. “What’s your address again?”
I told him. More page flipping.
“Yup,” he confirmed.
The lady turned to me and said that I wasn’t on the list and that I’d have to register at the table behind her. OK.
I made my way to the end of the next table’s lineup, where I again found myself behind guy-who-voted-already and non-english-speaking friend. More suspicious glances at me.
Around this time, one of the largest guys I have ever seen walked in. He was speaking Russian or some such Slavic language to his wife, and had graying hair. He rather reminded me of the villain Jaws from the James Bond movies, but with normal teeth. Same size, though, I kid you not. His wife was over six feet yet signifcantly shorter than him. He got in line right behind me, not really respecting my personal space.
Anyhow, he recognized page-flipping guy at the first table and said, in a heavily-accented, booming voice befitting a giant:
“Hey friend, you better do a good job eh? You better do a good job ’cause we got to vote out that rotten crook Paul Martin, eh? Heh heh. Heh heh.” His belly laughs resonated on the gymnasium walls.
Non-English-speaking-friend turns to eye Jaws suspiciously, but realizes he’s looking at the guy’s navel and decides it’s not worth the risk, and turns back. But not before giving me the stink eye once more.
A white-haired septagenarian lady was filling out a registration form for him, using slow, meticulous strokes of her Bic pen. I can’t fault her for this. Legible and accurate are traits prized more highly within the public service than speed, so this lady was obviously at the forefront of her field. Except, perhaps for the octogenarian lady perched next to her, who had been calligraphing a form for the same gentleman as she had been when I first arrived at the school.
“Hey, buddy? You doin’ a good job, guy? You better,” Jaws began again, just as loudly.
“Shhhhhhhhhhhh,” admonished a polling official who had made his way over to the large man.
“What you want? I know this guy 20 years! I say what I want to him!”
“You can’t say stuff like that at a polling station, sir.”
“This is booolshit. I say what I want. Acehold.”
I couldn’t hear the brave elections officer’s retort, but Jaws eventually quieted down and began muttering things in his native language. His wife seemed unperturbed.
I finally got my turn with the septagenarian lady, who was quite friendly when she asked to see my driver’s license and carefully copied all the info onto the registration form. When she finished, I made my way to polling station number 85 where, not at all surprisingly, I found myself behind guy-who-voted-already and non-english-speaking friend. There was also another guy ahead of me, so I waited here for another 5 minutes while they all voted.
Finally, my turn.
The lady working at polling booth number 85 sized me up as I handed her the form filled out at the previous table. She took it and studied it carefully for a minute. Holding it to her chest, she narrowed her eyes and asked, “What’s your address?”
I told her, and she verified my answer against the form. She returned it to her chest, looked at me over her eyeglass frames, and queried, “What’s your postal code?”
I met her eyes and responded with as little hesitation as possible. She checked my answer. Two for two!
“How long have you been living at this address?”
“A bit over three years.”
One more furtive look at the form. She nodded.
“Do you have some ID?”
Once again, I produced my driver’s license. She took the proferred card and closely examined the name. Apparently, it still matched the form. She looked at the photo. She peered at me. It would seem I still matched my picture.
With a few tearing and folding motions, she prepared a ballot for me to take to the little table with the cardboard blind. When I had made my way to the relative privacy of the semi-shielded booth, I unfolded the paper and found she had actually given me two blank ballots.
I’d just spent about 30 minutes being scrutinized to make sure I only voted once, and now this? I almost laughed out loud.
I marked and re-folded one of the ballots and returned to the table. I handed the lady the blank ballot.
“You gave me two.”
“You gave me two ballots. I’m giving you the unused one.”
“You’re not spoiling it?” This was from the gentleman seated at the table next to her.
“Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do?” I slipped my marked, folded ballot into the box. “Have a good evening,” I said, and walked away, leaving them staring, perplexed, at the unmarked ballot on the table.
As I drove home, I marvelled at the weaknesses I could have exploited in this silly paper-based process to vote multiple times. I was obviously on the voter’s list, having received the misplaced card, but for a different booth. I could have gone home, grabbed my card, and come back to vote at a different booth after voting twice at this one.
But of course that would be wrong, so I didn’t.
I wonder how many people did?