Very interesting. I went to vote today, of course. (Angus does not vote, which mystifies me. Of COURSE he is right that voting because you affect the outcome is silly. But voting because it makes normal people nervous....THAT is really fun. Of course, at this point Angus has 34 years of virginal non-voting streak at risk, so perhaps I don't blame him after all).
Anyway, I went to vote. I was #306, and I went to the poll 10 minutes before closing time. ("You.... you are number #306! Get in line!" I love being an arbitrary number chosen by the state. Perhaps I should get used to it, if laws like the Arizona "Extra Real ID" rules spread to other states).
Except there was no line. I was the only one there. Four poll workers, and me. Yes, they are volunteers. But they are volunteers working for the state. And... well, let me tell you.
I give the front line lady my name. She finds my entry in the "Giant Special Book of People Who Have the State's Permission to be Citizens, and Other Secret Things." And says, "Please state your name." Since that is what I had just done, and that is how she found my listing, I was giggling. (Angus, see what you are missing, man?) Then, "State your address."
I said, "10020 Bushveld." She looks up, suspicious. "Bushveld WHAT?"
"Lane," I said, amazed. "10020 Bushveld LANE." She nods, still suspicious. Now, I was #306 for the day, in a place where the polls had been open since 6:30 am. They are only getting a little less than 4 people every 10 minutes, or 24 people per hour, voting. There couldn't have been much demand for vote fraud. She just didn't like the look of me, I think. (Yes, I was wearing dirty shorts, a ripped t-shirt with a spaghetti sauce stain, and flip-flops. Again, Angus, man, so many chances to enjoy this).
She starts to explain to me which ballot I can vote. North Carolina's D and R parties have chosen to have semi-open primaries, where D registered voters vote D, R registered voters vote R, and unaffiliated voters can vote either.
Except that there is a third party, the Libertarians. Actually on the ballot. Except there were no ballots. This may make some sense, because I think that no Libertarian primary is contested this time around. Still, we have a Senate candidate, Dr. Michael Beitler, and I was looking forward to voting for him. We did all that work to get on the ballot, and I was looking forward to it. If you look at the list of candidates who filed for office, and paid fees (pdf here), you'll see there are more than 20 Libertarian candidates for statewide, federal, or state assembly seats. We did all that work, and got on the ballot. And then I got more than 2% running for governor. So we are ON THE BALLOT.
The lady is flustered by my Libertarian registration, which is there plain as day on the record. She goes to ask Uber-voting-spiel-fuhrer. They argue, she gestures, he peeks at me. Then he comes over and asks, "Sir, what is it you want to do?"
Now I start to giggle again. I did not say that I was there to watch the baseball game, and have some margaritas. Instead, I said, "I want to vote. I thought this was the voting precinct for my address, and..."
He interrupts, though not rudely, and says, "Yes, but who are you going to vote for?"
I raise my eyebrows, and my voice (there were two people behind me now): "I have to tell you who I'm going to vote for? Is this some kind of profiling? I thought we had secret ballots!"
The voting-spiel-fuhrer, who was painfully earnest, actually dropped his mouth open and then turned beet red. "Da... boh... No, I meant which party do you want to vote for?"
"I want to vote in a way that doesn't violate North Carolina's election law. I am registered Libertarian. I want to vote for my party, as the law dictates. Are you telling me I can vote in another party's primary?"
He said, "We can't have a different ballot for each party. What if the Greens, or the ... the...." (he couldn't think of any other parties) "....wanted to vote? It would be too expensive to print ballots for every party."
So, I said that the Greens, the Constitution, the Socialist Workers, the Farm Union, and Moonies couldn't possibly ask for a ballot, because they are NOT recognized parties in the state of North Carolina. The Libertarians, by contrast, are fully recognized, and are on the ballot. So his example made no sense. None of those parties were authorized to field candidates, but the Libertarians are authorized, and in fact do have candidates, including Mike Beitler who is running for the Senate nomination.
The poor fellow held up pretty well. He said, with an air of finality, "You just tell us which ballot you want, Democrat or Republican, and we'll give it to you."
I said, "Republican." (I wanted to vote for my friend BJ Lawson, since there were no Lib ballots). And I voted, and I got one of those "I voted" stickers, and I went out to the car.
But I still think that the poll workers were mistaken, and that I should not have been allowed to vote in a partisan primary other than the one I am registered for.
And, I was struck by a question whose answer I don't know, at all. What is rule for the Libertarian Party? When we have primaries in 2012 (we are likely to have contested primaries for both Governor and President), will our ballot be open, semi-open, or closed? I do not know the answer to that.