Thursday, March 01, 2007

Amberance: Conscientious Citizen

Tuesday night I headed out for my first experience as a voter in Illinois. Or rather, as a voter in Chicago as it was only a municipal election. I was extremely excited despite there being only four races on the ballot, one of which was a person running unopposed and another being the mayoral race, which is really just a formality here. Mayor Daley was re-elected overwhelmingly just as everyone expected. Chicagoans are funny like that. It's not that people are unaware that the administration is overwhelmingly corrupt, it's just that they don't really care. It's almost considered part of the city's cultural heritage: who doesn't think of Chicago when they think of Al Capone and the mafia and buying politicians? Secretly we like being notorious. As long as the streets are clean, and they are, Daley can be declared Mayor for life. Nevertheless, voting was the thing I was waiting for to make me feel like I can tell people I'm from here, so I was really psyched about it.

I got to the polling place which was a school near my house and went inside. I got passed from one table to another until we finally figured out that my ward's table wasn't in the building. "Go back out and on the other side of the pavement there is like a yellow field house, that's where you need to go." I thought this was weird because the school was pretty huge and the other two wards were only using one room. But whatever. I walked around the playground and saw the yellow field house. It was tucked way back into a corner where it could barely be seen from the street. It also looked like it could collapse on top of the people inside it at any second. In my head I started imagining a conspiracy theory, like Daley found out that a lot of people in my ward were planning to vote against him so they put the voting somewhere that was difficult to find and scary once you got there.

The inside was tiny and smelled like mildew and unwashed jock straps. The people inside, on the other hand were awesome. In all my life I have never seen such cheerful election volunteers. I half expected them to hand me a beer and tell me come hang out at the table. While I was voting it was discovered that almost everyone volunteering in that room was left handed, and they had noticed the left-handedness of me and the person who came in right after me while we were giving our signatures and this caused much rejoicing.

I finished voting in about 18 seconds, and took my ballot up the collection table. By the way, they have GIGANTIC ballots here. Seriously. Only four races on the ticket, but this sheet of paper must have been about 12" x 20". Al Gore would have a stroke if he ever saw them. This was the part I had been most looking forward to. Because all my life, I've been a voter in Ohio and in Ohio you get this awesome "I voted today!" sticker when you turn in your ballot. I was really excited about that sticker because I wanted to wear it to the bar tonight in order to make fun of my friend Teacher Charlie, who is best known for his never bothering to vote. I planned to taunt him with it. Only, when I turned my ballot in, there were no stickers. Instead they handed me a slip of paper that read "Ballot Receipt February 27, 2007. Municipal General Election." as if I had purchased something I might later want to return. Also the upper left-hand corner noted that this was Form 10, so apparently it's some kind of official document. All I know is that it has no adhesive that I can use to affix it to my shirt tonight. I was disappointed. I thought everyone handed out stickers when you voted. On occasion it's been the only reason I went - I have no idea who all those judges are!

So I'll have to make fun of Teacher Charlie without a cool prop, but what's that you ask? Where am I from? Why, I'm from Chicago Illinois!

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