Vagabond Voting - A cautionary tale

As the door closed behind me and I walked across the atrium, following the signs that pointed voters through a door and down the stairs, I was even more confident: I've never been in this church before. Still I walked on. It's nothing new for my voting experience to take place in a different location than before. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to recall the last time I voted in the same place twice. Friendly volunteers awaited me and, as on all past voting days, I gave my name when asked. The smiling woman paused, looked at me again, asked me to clarify, then shook her head. "I'm sorry dear, your name isn't on my list."

Of course it wasn't. It was on a different list in a different church a mile and a half up the same road. And so once we'd efficiently established this information, which made perfect sense once it had been said aloud, I headed to my second destination: my actual polling place. The way I'd come up with this particular location was random and has to do with the haphazard way things were going yesterday morning when I'd distractedly checked to see where I should go yet failed to make proper note of the location, and - having arrived on the indicated street not that awfully far from my actual polling place - saw the election signage and thought "Aah - church with voting. This is my street. I'm here!" It's the sad, sad truth.

As someone with, er, heightened challenges in the arena of focus and attention span, I'm starting to think I've put all my tips and tricks and skills into the professional basket. I'll manage your project efficiently and with great care if you're my client. And? If it's related to my non-professional life? Something optional, elective, completely up to me? It's at least possible I won't write it down or remember it properly. It's a wonder I ever get anything accomplished that isn't absolutely required.

Anybody other than another vagabondish nomadic wanderer who reads this will be understandably perplexed. "Why on earth?" you'll ask yourself, "wouldn't you just know where you are supposed to vote?" Why indeed. Well, it's just the little matter of how I tend to, y'know, move around a lot. Months-long stretches of house-sitting, and similar types of dwelling choices have me rarely in the same place for any stretch of time. And so for years now, every time I vote, it's been at a new location. This time? This time I failed to update my registration records. And while I most certainly had plenty of time to handle this efficiently... well, yea. I didn't. I could blame the fact that I was out of the state for a full three months out of the last six, but we both know that's probably not the reason.

So off I went to the church where my official registration documents were telling me to go. The ones that reflect a former place of residence. Yea. That didn't work out so well either. As the woman found me on her list, (boo ya!) I am happy to report that I hesitated to misrepresent the truth when she asked me "Where do you live?" All I wanted was for her to ask me, "What address is written on your voter registration card?" Wouldn't that be just so much easier?

So I shamefully explained that I could not, in fact, sign my name with honesty in the box that said I did in fact live in a place where I have not lived in some time. She sent me to another table where another friendly woman grinned, waiting for me. Questions were asked. Explanations were given. Eyebrows were raised. More questions were asked. Including a very patient, "Well where do you get your mail?" (At a Post Office box! Which of course isn't helpful in such matters, either.) A very official looking telephone was picked up. A call was placed. Initials were marked out, codes were looked up, new addresses were written down, and my fourth friendly voting volunteer of the day asked me, "Do you know where this church is?" "No ma'am. But I can find it."

As I walked into my third polling place of the day, holding the shameful piece of paper that announced, before I'd said a word, that I had not managed my affairs properly in a timely manner, all the friendly volunteers grinned at me in a most welcoming manner. These were my people. I could tell they loved me here. They wanted me to vote in THEIR place. They didn't care if I'd botched my first two attempts. I held up the paper - and my head - and grinned back. "I'm one of those people..." They laughed warmly and one of the women gestured to a table around behind her. "He'll help you." Nobody was at the table, but an equally friendly man was looking at it now. And as he walked back toward this table, gesturing for me to follow him, he said, "Are you Melody?" Oh. C'mon now. Seriously? Yes. My reputation proceeds me. It's true. She'd called ahead and told him I was coming.

So he did some fancy things with his computer, and signed some things and numbered some things and made convivial small talk. And then? Just like that? I was escorted by a friendly older gentleman, same as all the other people standing in line, to the voting booth and permitted to perform my patriotic duty. And then I was done. Same as you.

Some friendly bits of advice:

  • Last minute will work for you sometimes, but in general, it's better to handle these things in advance. 'Course you prolly already knew that, now didn't you?
  • If someone pats you on the hand and looks at you like you're 12, just go with it.
  • Phrases like "Define 'where do you live?'" and "You need to know exactly when I moved?" tend not to be received as comfortably as standard phrases like "How are you?" and "Have a nice day!" Just sayin...

 Still? I'll bet my voting day story is slightly more memorable than yours!