Aug 19, 2013

Knock the Tote

posted by killre

I am a fraudulent voter.

It wasn't at all hard to do.  In fact, I fell into it quite by accident.

As a former holder of a Class A license with a certification to transport hazardous materials (a certification that for some reason is referred to as an endorsement), there was a period of my life when I had to spend more time at the local branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles than anyone who (a) didn't work there or (b) couldn't for all their trying find some way of passing their examination.  (I once met an ordinary Jose who was taking his exam for the seventeenth time.  He failed, but he was proud of coming closer to scraping by than ever before.)

The reason I had to make such regular appearances is the DMV's policy regarding the written exams for the shipping of hazardous materials: the tests are guarded mongo jealously and those who wish to re-up their endorsement must do so in person and approximately two and a half times more frequently than a normal person renews their normal license.  While this policy is the proverbial prominent pain in my own personal, pronounced posterior, I recognize the good sense in it.  You probably don't like the thought of the men and women who operate those seventeen-to-forty ton big rigs on your local highways and byways cheating on any of their tests, but if there was one exam on which you would least like them to, uh, cut corners, it is probably the one about handling up to twenty-three tons of haz-mat.

Incidentally, here are two disturbing facts about the transport of hazardous materials that you may or may not know...

1.  One thousand pounds (or more) of any kind of haz-mat is required by law to be advertised.  That is to say the vehicle in which it is being shipped --a semi-trailer, for example-- must show an officially designed, diamond-shaped placard on all four sides.  Nine hundred ninety-nine pounds of the same material (except explosives) is not only not required to be placarded, it is legally forbidden to be.

2.  Twenty tons of, say, antifreeze in fifty-gallon barrels is haz-mat.  Twenty tons of antifreeze in one-gallon jugs is not.

So anyway... One day some years ago I was at the DMV, where, as it turned out, one could not only renew one's driver's license, one could register to vote.  You should brace yourself about now, lest you be shocked when I tell you that I actually had as much as ninety-seven seconds or so of free time while I waited for my number to be called.  I decided to use it filling out (filling in?) a voter registration card.  I used my quite real and quite legal surname, first name and middle initial.  Then I did whatever one did in those days to see to it that the card reached the Proper Authorities and almost immediately set my mind to not giving it much more thought.

So little thought did I give it, in fact, that when I again found myself at the DMV some sizeable chunk of time later, again with a sizeable chunk of time to kill (I know; I can't explain it, either), I again filled in (filled out?) a voter registration... not so much because I couldn't remember doing it before as because I wasn't sure for how long the first one was valid-- a freely admitted failure on my part to read the fine print.  This time, it took me ninety-eight seconds because I used my quite real and quite legal surname, first name and full middle name: a spur-of-the-moment decision, nothing more.

It wasn't until about the third time I had received two jury summons within a couple months of each other that I decided to compare them.  Apparently, two of me living at the same address had raised no red flags at the local Superior Court.  Since the rolodex of dutiful citizens for that noble calling is lifted directly from the county's list of registered voters, I could only assume there were also two of me eligible to vote.  (I can't help but wonder, believer in fairy tales that I am, if there wasn't somebody somewhere who actually did notice that there were apparently two people with very similar names living in the same house, and if so, what rationalization they constructed for themselves to explain it.)

Another sizeable chunk of time went by before our nation's last Election Day.  By then I had applied for and received permanent absentee-voter status (albeit under just one name), since I was still spending roughly 85% of my time on the road --just one inflamed disc in the backbone of the American economy, which is why I had been able to tell it was already suffering the onset of osteoporosis long before any of the hot air buffoons in Washington deigned to take notice-- and besides, I had delusions of actually putting some research into the boxes I was being asked to check.  After all, how am I supposed to know off the top of my head whether the Hon. Ms. Wutzername is more deserving of a particular seat on a particular bench than Mr. Widget, Esq.?  By quickly glancing at my watch and voting according to whether the digit was odd or even?  That is precisely why the Founding Fathers were so leery of democracy, although they failed to foresee the day when balloting for national office would actually be easier for the unwashed masses than deciding who should be Commissioner of District Water Management.

I had in due course received my absentee ballot and its accompanying return envelope and had duly tossed them upon the pile of Things To Do Later.  I am an All-pro crastinator.  I even won an award for it once, but I have yet to gin up the gumption to collect it.  The ballot languished in that ever-growing file of Things That Are Important But Not, You Know, That Important until it was past its mail-in date.  No matter.  By serendipity, I happened to be in town on Election Day and decided to appear in person at my local polling place.  I gave them my name --I forget which one-- and address and they immediately expressed consternation.  I was registered, after all, as a permanent absentee voter.  I was not supposed to vote in person.

I considered giving them my other name, whichever one it was.  I also considered shrugging and saying, "My bad," and leaving.  According to the 2010 Census, my tally is worth about 0.00039 percent of an Electoral Vote anyway (based on a 50% turnout), which unless you are a fellow resident of Californ-i-a, is demonstrably less than yours.  Before I could speak, though, they told me I could fill out a provisional ballot.  I reached for my wallet and asked if I needed to show some I.D....

They said no.

Now I was the one who was consternated, if that's even a word.  I lean left in many, if not most, of my attitudes, but voter I.D. is not one of them.  Oh, I don't disbelieve there are people for whom voting is, like, the only reason they will ever have for possessing photographic identification, nor do I fail to understand the process of getting one can be as much fun as, heh, a root canal and seem every bit as possible at times as traversing two hundred yards of muskeg with an eighty-pound pack on one's back... but the idea that somebody, anybody, can simply stroll into a polling place, utter a likely local name and address, glance at their watch and start checking boxes is one that appalls me.  So I support voter I.D.... so long as it's free and non-exclusive.

I began this by saying, "I am a fraudulent voter."  Strictly speaking, that isn't true.  I did not, nor have I ever, engaged in the impiety of voting twice in one election.  I'm only about fifty percent sure I could do so with, um, impunity.  Besides, it would only count as 0.00078 percent of an Electoral Vote... which might still be less than you.

P.S.... Bud "Things That Are Unimportant Until They Happen: Shattered Bats Killing People" Selig must go.

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