I arrived at the Coral Reef Public Library at 12:42 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28. The line started very near the front door. Not too bad.
The crowd was subdued, unlike four years ago, when frenzied voters were sharpening their knives and jabbing at the air with pitchforks. After all the debates, the post-debate commentary, the commentary on the commentary, the TV ads, junk mail, email, blogs and tweets, they just wanted the process to end.
Everyone should be required to vote at a library. The last election cycle, while waiting in line, I read a few chapters from Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, a travel book on Italy, and a history of England. This year, I read a grade school book about the early settlement at Jamestown, Va., and a young adult book on Communism. Karl Marx, I learned, thought that his communist revolution would begin in the industrialized west, not, as it turned out, in the peasant societies of Russia and China. Boy, did he call that one wrong. If it were decreed that in order to vote you had to read part of a book while waiting on line and then write a book report, I wouldn’t mind at all.
There was a running commentary rippling through the lines about the constitutional amendments on the ballot. Some people brought cheat-sheets with them, while others took the sample ballot printout from an election worker. The general consensus was that the proposed amendments as a whole were ridiculously long, too difficult to understand, and backing up the line.
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That got me thinking. What if someone wanted to keep the voter turnout as low as possible because they believed a large turnout would help the opposing political party? Well, in addition to cutting back on early voting and making unfounded challenges to registered voters, one might load up the ballot with a series of long constitutional amendments filled with legal jargon, calculating that people would get bogged down in the voting booth and back up the lines so that voters would leave or not even bother to park their cars and get in line. Gee, that would be a mean trick to play on the electorate.
The good news is that each proposed amendment is fully translated into Spanish and Creole. The bad news is that most of them could have been printed in Old Mandarin for all the good it would do a voter seeking to make an informed choice.
I voted for anything that cut some slack for our military veterans. As to the other proposed amendments, I remembered that this was the same Florida Legislature that last year passed a law forbidding sex with animals (and which may accidently have outlawed sex altogether), so I thought I probably was safe voting against anything being urged by a group with such a misguided sense of priorities.
After being granted entrance into the inner sanctum of the voting booths, I was handed five large ballot sheets, and directed to a voting both that really was a table with four skinny legs. I liked filling in the circles, a skill I had honed on many a standardized test. This was a good process: no hanging chads and a paper trail for my vote. I was then directed to the area where I fed my five big sheets into a machine, and was given a “I voted today” sticker, which I wore proudly the rest of the day.
All in all, if you are one of those people who likes the idea of living in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I highly recommend voting as a worthy undertaking. Especially early. And in a library.