February 5, 2008

Voting madness banner

by CB Buchholz

In the 6 years that I have come to Chaparral Elementary School (in Albuquerque, New Mexico) to cast my vote in elections, I have NEVER seen anything like this!

This year, the New Mexico Democratic Party decided to hold a caucus vote instead of a primary vote, for reasons still not clear to us. On this Super Tuesday, the caucus vote would take place from 12 noon to 7 p.m.

I drove over to Chaparral School and noticed multitudes of cars parked on the streets, a very rare sight in this neighborhood. I then noticed that the school parking lot was overflowing, with many more cars parked illegally on school grounds. Many people braved the freezing and windy weather and walked towards the school building.

Once inside the school building, I was floored by the crowd and the long lines, something that I had not seen before. There was some chaos as this was supposed to be a caucus vote. It turned out that the vote was just the same as the primary vote, except that we were divided into 3 groups based on our last names, A-G, H-O, and P-Z.

The waiting time in the line stretched into 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and then an hour. I paged my partner, a sign language interpreter, to inform her of the wait. She replied back saying that it was a big problem all over the city of Albuquerque. I befriended some people who stood beside me in the line. Also, I was receiving news bulletins on my Blackberry pager from CNN and MSNBC, and I showed them to the folks around me. Because of this, I became a News Central in our line and the line next to us, until we passed a checkpoint where we were not allowed to discuss news and politics, according to a sign (photo shown below).

Our line moved slowly towards the library where the voting booths were placed. My partner Shoshanah paged me asking me where I was inside the school building so that we could exchange our vehicle keys (she was helping a friend move and needed the pickup truck). At that time, an election official walked into the hallway and made some comments, which caused a commotion. Just then, my partner found me and immediately interpreted for me. By then it was almost 6 p.m.

The election official explained that the polling place was running out of paper ballots and that they might have to restore to plain paper for us to write in our candidate selection. Many people in the line retorted that this would mean that our written votes would not be recognized and counted. Shoshanah announced that local radio shows reported this problem all over the city, and that several polling places ran out of paper ballots, closing down the voting booths. Someone asked the election official how this problem could have happened. The answer was that the party officials did not anticipate a massive voter turnout like this all over the state, and they got bowled over.

After the election official left, there was a lot of rumbling and side conversations in the hallway. Suddenly someone came into the building with photocopies of the paper ballot and people cheered. And then there was a scare that there might not be enough photocopies, and that the photocopy votes might not be counted either. After Shoshanah left with my car keys and I finally reached the registration table, there was some photocopies left. When I was given my ballot, I shook my fist in the air, causing laughter in the library. Then I found myself being escorted to the voting booth, and I learned that several people screamed to the officials that I was Deaf.

After I cast my vote and handed in my ballot, I went back to the hallway. In front of everyone, I raised my fists into the air. Everyone reacted in many different ways, but the bottom line was that everyone acknowledged that I considered my vote too important to be disregarded or messed around with. Walking towards the door, I ran into several neighbors of mine, all waiting for a chance to vote and looking rather bewildered about this over-capacity crowd. Several of them (both neighbors and people in the lines) said that they had never seen anything like this before, and that the mere act of voting at this school usually took 15 to 20 minutes, in and out.

Upon coming into my house, I got this e-mail announcement that the New Mexico Democratic Party officials decided to extend the closing time of the polls, as long as people showed up at 7 p.m. or before, and that they would stay open until all these people cast their votes. Then our Governor Bill Richardson appeared on national TV news shows to explain the problems encountered by New Mexico voters and that the party officials were doing everything to accomodate this massive voter turnout.

This was how my voting day went here in New Mexico. If any of you have a Super Tuesday story and/or photo(s) to share with us, please do so!!

Also, at the time of publishing this post, preliminary news reports (as of 7:30 Mountain time) seemed to imply an Obama landslide??? This is going to be one very interesting evening. MORE TO COME!!!

Chaparral poster and crowd

Thank you- DEAF DEMOCRATS Editors


One comment

  1. Wow, CB! My voting experience was this….

    Guide my mom into the voting booth, then ran to get my OWN ballot, submit it, then get my mom, and she submitted hers, then it was out the door….all within 5 min.

    We did it early in the morning (around 930am) LOL!

    The people at the voting place, remembers me from 2, 4, 6 years ago, and was ready for me….this time it was so much easier than having to explain blah blah blah that I don’t understand their mumbling, etc.

    I’m a registered Independent, but chose a Democrat ballot. while I was trying to figure out why I can’t just mark down Independent, one of the men behind the table wanted me to mark Republican. Well, (and for those of you who know me) my reaction was quick and loud….”I’m NO DAMN REPUBLICAN!” The poor guy sort of faded into the background! Others laughed. The only people voting at the time was me, my mom and a older man.

    Of course, my mom was a bit embarrassed because my reaction was “melodramatic” as she calls it. Well, heck, I’ll be damned if anyone forces me to vote against my own wishes.

    That’s the only excitement we had at the voting place. 🙂

    Keep ’em coming folks!

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