Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The Illinois Primary
Today when I go to my polling place I will be reminded that voting is a very old tradition in our country. I don't just mean the 230-year-old tradition of voting to secure our lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness. I'm speaking literally. The people who staff our polling places are very old. One broken hip away from a nursing home old. Assisted living old. Addicted to Wheel of Fortune old.
It's not like these people have grown old with the job either. The five or six septugenarians who appear at my polling place on voting days are never the same. There's a new batch of old people every time I vote.
I figure that can only mean the effort of pointing to the voting machine and stuffing my ballot into a box is so great that they die. Why else would anyone give up such a cush job? You can't beat work that only requires showing up three or four times a year, while providing unlimited danish and free coffee the entire time you're there.
I also can't imagine that the old folks leave for better opportunities. Posting their polling place resumes on Monster.com with the hope of finding advancement in the field seems far fetched. Okay, maybe working in New York has its appeal, but who wants the hassle of finding cheap c-pap replacement parts?
The conspiracy theorist in me is concerned that our government may be enticing the elderly into running the polling places as a way of keeping the population down. That whole dying from the effort thing. I don't know what they're promising them, but it's clearly taking a toll on the number of senior citizens of my town. They work the polling place and disappear.
While I'm mystified and justifably concerned about the amount of turnover, there may be another important reason for needing to raid the senior centers for enough old people to command the polling places. After all, I'm sure there are plenty of slacker youths around to handle the stress of pointing a finger and putting a ballot through a slot in a box four days a year.
Frankly, and this will shock you, young people cannot cope with the technology.
Here again, it's important to remember that voting is an old tradition. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Ageing Jack Daniels in oak still works. Bringing Cuban cigars into the country through Canada is now in it's sixth decade.
So you can appreciate how our government might take pride in continuing to let us receive our ballots only after using those time honored tools from the past -- paper and pen. Young people are all about computers and keyboards, Offering them a paper and pen is like sitting down to a meal together -- not going to happen.
Old people, on the other hand, know how to shake the pen and get the ink down to the tip, so you can sign your name and verify you are who you are. And they know how to turn pages in a binder without ripping the holes, an art that will soon be lost to posterity.
Recently there has been some discussion about modernizing our voting process. Like that's going to happen. The most recent effort has been the installation of voting screens which allow people to use their fingers to cast their votes. And just who is going to wipe the screens after all those sticky digits have been touching them? EEEEEWWWWW.
The upside is that the whole country will gain a new appreciation for OCD. Howie Mandel will become their spokesperson. Soap, water, and sinks will be provided next to every voting booth.
You laugh. This is America. These things can happen.
Before you get too smug, count all the old people at your polling place and tell me I'm wrong about that.