Friday, November 21, 2008

The Sanctity of the Voting Booth

The sanctity of the home versus the sanctity of the voting booth…
by Charlie Leck

The following is fiction. It could easily be fact, a true story, but it just doesn’t happen to be.

A county judge up here in Minnesota, in a case regarding the U.S. Senate election recount, ordered his county’s election officials to provide the names and addresses of those voters whose absentee ballots had been rejected and the reasons for that rejection.

The scene is my home last evening, as my wife and I are having dinner together – a spicy, Italian sausage fettuccini that I had worked all day long to prepare. The door bell rings and it is a team of lawyers and volunteers from the Al Franken for Senate campaign.

They tell us, while standing out on the front stoop, in the cold, windy evening, that it is extremely important that they talk to my wife.

Wow! I’m excited and I invite them in and offer each a glass of a lovely wine we had opened to go with the fettuccini. We gather around the fireplace in the living room. As a political junkie and student of political history, I am just about out of my mind with excitement.

So, the scene is set. Lights! Camera! Action! Barry Wold, a lawyer and part of the Franken team, speaks first.
[Wold]: Mrs. Leck, I’m sorry to have to tell you that your absentee ballot was rejected here in Independence

[Anne]: What? Why that’s impossible!

[Me]: Wow!

[Wold]: I’m afraid it’s happened, ma’am. It seems you got mixed up about the envelopes and put your ballot in the white envelope instead of the manila one and put the white envelope inside the manila envelope instead of the manila envelope, with your ballot inside it, in the white envelope.

[Scootch]: That’s right lady! (Laughing and shaking his head.) It’s hard to believe you could get that big white envelope into that little manila one.

[Wold]: Scootch, that’s not important. Things happen.

[Scootch]: (Still laughing!) That’s right, man, shit happens! Got any dope around here?

[Wold]: Scootch! For Jesus sake?

[Anne]: (Embarrassed and annoyed) Does that mean that my vote was not counted? That I was disenfranchised?

[Scootch]: Right! You got screwed!

[Wold]: Mrs. Leck, let me explain. Scootch, keep quiet and stop the snickering. Mrs. Leck, I’m sorry to have to tell you that your vote was not counted. The recount is now down to only 1 or 2 votes in separation between Franken and Coleman. This is a crucial moment. We’d like to confirm that you voted for Al Franken, though, because of your husband’s involvement with our campaign and the significant amount of money he gave to us this year, we doubt that it’s even a matter of conjecture. Then we want to strenuously argue with the county, and in the courts if need be, that your ballot be counted.

[Me]: Wow! How ‘bout that, Scootch?

[Scootch]: Yeh, man! (Scootch slaps me on my back!) No shit, Toledo! Wish I had a joint!

[Wold]: Scootch! Knock it off, man!

[Me]: This is great stuff, man! Never dreamed I’d be involved in a deciding vote situation! Shucks, man! The papers are going to eat this up. Let me get a pen!

[Anne]: Whoa, there! Sit down, Charlie, and calm down, too! Mr. Wold, I’m troubled by all of this. It’s such a tradition in America that voting is an absolutely secret thing! And, now, here you are in my living room asking me to tell you who I voted for.

[Me]: Awe, shucks, Anne, don’t be so technical. It’s really important, here! Tell the man you voted for Al and he’ll scurry back to the precinct and get that ballot validated, they’ll take a look at it, and we’ll probably have a winner.

[Anne]: It’s not that easy Charlie. I mean it's about this secrecy stuff! It’s really important. I’ve never even had to tell you about this stuff.

[Me]: Now, dear, you know we always talk about all this stuff ahead of time, before we vote.

[Anne]: No, you talk about it, Charlie! You talk about it! You tell me who you think I should vote for. I never tell you who to vote for. And, I never tell you who I voted for!

[Me]: What? Dear! Whatta you mean?

[Scootch]: Wow! They may go at it right here before our eyes!

[Wold]: Shut up, Scootch! Mrs. Leck, this is really important. An election for the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance and your vote is probably going to tip this thing.

[Anne]: Charlie, I think you should leave the room. As a matter of fact, you should leave the house. Go take the dog for a long walk!

[Me]: What? What!

[Anne]: I mean it, Charlie. Voting in America is a secret thing and that secrecy is sacred as far as I’m concerned. You better go! Now! …Or, I’m kicking these gentlemen – or this gentleman – out of my house!

[Me]: Whoa! Hold on!

[Anne]: I mean it! Go!

Well, that’s all I can tell you. I left. As a matter of fact, I left with Scootch, the dog and my tail between my legs. What an extraordinary moment to miss. I couldn’t figure out what the little missus was so jumpy about.

All’s I know is that I opened the next morning’s paper and there was the headline: “COUNT FINISHED. FRANKEN FINISHED! LOSES SENATE SEAT BY ONE VOTE!"
[Me]: Anne? Dear, where are you? Anne?

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