It’s a new experience for me.
I’m middle-aged, and this isn’t exactly my first Presidential primary as a voting adult. But as someone who has only lived in California and Texas, my vote has never really counted; the primaries have basically been over by the time they rolled around to me. And to be honest, that’s what I was expecting again.
Silly, silly me. Not this year.
For the first time, my vote is being courted. For the first time, I’m receiving multiple phone calls urging me to vote, and asking me to vote for a specific person. The sensibilities of my Uncle John in Derry, N.H. may be dulled by the repetitiveness of this sort of thing happening to him every four years, but for me it’s a new experience, and I’m really enjoying it.
So what’s it like on the ground here in Austin, Texas for a Democratic voter?
2/29-3/4: Lots of phone calls–no fewer than 5, and probably more that I didn’t pick up the phone for–urging me to vote for Obama. None for Hillary. None. Further, the Obama calls were smart; prior to Friday evening, they were all urging me to vote early for Obama. Afterwards, to vote on Tuesday and asking if I knew about the Texas primary/caucus duality.
Obama was in the area last week (I think); lots of advanced notice, lots of information on location and time. Hillary was in town yesterday; no notice, no information on location and time, and she was at a place (The Burger events center? What the hell is that?) that neither I nor my wife have even heard of, let alone knew where it was located.
3/4, 7:45 am: Hauled myself out of bed at 6:30, not because I’m so eager to vote (although I am), but because it was Dad’s Turn to get the kids ready for school. On the way to my daughter’s school, the number of lawn signs has decreased since yesterday, interestingly. The neighbor across the street has taken down their “Hillary” sign. Lots of other signs on Exposition, a main neighborhood street down near the river, have been removed since yesterday afternoon. Go figure.
8:10am: Pulling up to the voting location–which here in Rollingwood is the municipal building–I see something I have never personally observed before: a line of cars along the road, parked in front. I manage to park in the tiny lot (4 slots, shared with the town’s police department in the same building). Hillary supporters have set out a table just the other side of the lot, presumably one inch from the “no canvassing here!” line.
Voting is a multi-step process. You have to show your voter card or ID to the “registrar” lady. She gives you a couple of stickers. Then you move over to your party table; they take the stickers and paste them in forms, and then ask you to sign in. Then you move over to the voter admin guy; he’s the one who gives you your–I don’t know what to call it; a voter receipt?–and your unlock code for the voting machines. Then it’s over to the machines to vote.
Rollingwood is a pretty affluent community, with a population of around 1200, and forms its own precinct. We have about a dozen voting machines, and they weren’t all being used by any means, and there sure wasn’t a line. Every time I blitz through–I’ve never had to wait–I always feel bad for more heavily populated precincts where they probably have fewer machines for far more people.
Rollingwood has voting machines; these have four buttons (next, previous, enter, and the big red VOTE! button), and this funky wheel dealie that scrolls through the lists. While I was voting I kept thinking about how easy it would be for someone with shaky hands (and my hands shake because of the Ultram I take) to screw up and vote for the wrong person. You can go back and correct fairly easily, but there’s no question in my mind that some people will vote for the wrong person and not know it. There is a final screen that lists all your selections, so you can double-check at the end, but still.
8:25am: Finished voting. There has been a constant movement of people in and out while I was voting. Certainly not a mighty stream, but definitely higher than a trickle. “Good throughput,” as we nerds say.
More later at the “precinct convention,” better known as the caucus portion of the Texas two-step.