So, I'm going into my local polling place to do my civic due, and I'm wondering if anyone remembers the fit I threw in the place 4 years ago. Surely not. It's the first time I've voted there since the "incident." I've been voting early every other time since, but with vacation, no such luck this time out.
As I hand my voter registration card to the nice lady at the table - I braced for what I might hear...
and I did...
"Sir, I can't find your name in our book?"
Oh, hell no - not again.
The following is my newsletter article for the first week of August, 2002.
Is this a great country, or what?
Last Thursday, I went to my local polling place to cast my vote for the candidates of my choice. The exercise in democracy is something I’ve always taken pride in. I have memories of watching the party conventions during the 60’s, and although quite young, the anger, the zeal, the conviction of citizens of the same country being diametrically opposed to, well, everything, fascinated me.
Now, my beloved wife doesn’t understand this about me. As much as she loves me, you ought to see the looks I get when I’m home on my day off and I’m watching CSPAN!
So, Thursday, taking my role as a citizen seriously, I went to vote.
Made my way through the maze of folks waving posters in my face, offering guides to help me find the right candidate when I'm in the polling booth, and even a few of the folks running for office were there to remind me how much they’d appreciate my support.
One guy's mama was there asking me to vote for his son.
Thank God for the 100 ft. line that ends such madness.
From that line on, It’s all about the citizen and his or her right to cast a ballot in peace for a candidate.
This was my first time to vote in Shelby County since moving back to the city. With voters’ registration card in hand I approached the table with the book in which my name would be listed to show that I, indeed, was registered to vote at the precinct ever so convenient to my house. The kindly poll worker to whom I gave my card greeted me.
I pronounced my name and watched his finger scan the page on which the “J’s” were found. I was puzzled as I watched his finger go up the page and down the page - up and down.
“Let me help him,” I thought. So I turned my head so I could see what he was seeing, “There’s a ‘Jeffords,’” I said. Ooops, not me, it was Kristy,
Apparently, I was not in the book.
Confused, but not troubled, I was sent to the head polling person to correct this little glitch. Only he was busy with someone else. He was tucked away in a corner, speaking on a telephone to the Election Commission Office concerning a guy who had just moved into the precinct from another precinct in the county, who wanted to vote here. The guy was leaning up against the wall - looking put out - his two kids were running all over the place and I was glad mine weren’t with me.
“Should’ve had all this fixed before he got here," I thought.
We looked at each other, gave that southern “what’s up?” head nod without speaking a word. He told his kids to be still, stay with their mother, don’t bang on the piano. Again I was glad the boys were with Kristy,
I waited 15 minutes for the head man to come back to tell this guy I was waiting behind that all was taken care of and he may enter the polling place to vote.
“About time," I thought.”
“May I help you?” He asked me.
I told him yes, and shared the problem. I handed him my voters’ registration card most certain that he’d be able to correct the problem and send me to do my civic duty. Standing beside him as he spoke the with “big office” downtown, he shared my name, spelled it, gave my address and all the other pertinent information located on my voter’s registration card.
I cannot begin to characterize the look of confusion that began to creep upon the face of this head pollster.
“Did you cancel your voter’s registration?” he asked as he listened to the voice on the other end of the Line.
“Cancel? No sir. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why would I be here if I cancelled?"
It was about this time I knew something was up.
He said as he handed me the phone,
“She’d like to talk with you.” - which, I understand, is unusual for the common man to be able to actually speak to a human in the election commission office especially on Election Day.
“Hello,” I said.
“Mr. Jeffords, our records show that you cancelled your voter’s registration upon your request.”
“No m'am, not possible, didn’t happen, I don’t know where that came from.”
“All the same, sir, you are not going to be eligible to vote today.”
“But I have my voters’ registration card, how can I not be eligible, why am I here to vote if I cancelled it (I was convinced my logic would allow her to see the error of her ways and she would say, “Mr. Jeffords, you make great sense, I’m going to authorize you to vote.”).
Instead, she said, “Oh, we give out a lot of voters’ registration cards, that doesn’t mean anything. For all we know, you’re a convicted felon.”
Now let me say at this point that I had been a pretty good boy. But that last comment from “Miss Thang” down at the Election Commission Office did It. I don’t think I was yelling, really, but everyone kind of stopped what they were doing, including the guy I had been waiting in line behind, his wife and kids - they all just took in the moment as I made the pronouncement to the lady on the phone -
“I can assure you, mam, that I am not a convicted felon,”
“Doesn’t matter, you still can’t vote today. But to correct your error, please come at your convenience to the Election Commission Office at..”
“Wait a minute,” I said, this is not MY error, It’s YOUR error, and you’re telling me that to correct an error that I didn’t make, I’ve got to come to you?”
Click. She hung up.
No “have a nice day,” no “sorry for the inconvenience.” No “kiss my toe.” Just click.
As I stormed out of the polling place I was so mad that I wasn’t capable of embarrassment. We passed that point a long ways back. I’m not really sure what all I said. I am sure, however, It wasn’t very nice. Poor head pollster guy caught my wrath and all he was doing was trying to help me.
Again, I was really glad my kids weren’t with me.
The next day, I was working out in the garage and I noticed that there were a couple of kids playing across the street in the house that some family had moved in to while we were on vacation. We hadn’t yet gone over to introduce ourselves.
Hey, it’s Memphis, you know privacy fences, mind your own business and all that.
We’ll get around to it - one day.
“Hmm, they look familiar," I thought.
When their dad opened the door to call them into the house for dinner - that’s when I got embarrassed. Seems like I knew them already, and the part of me they knew was not the part I like folks to see, especially someone I’ll be calling “neighbor”.
And they saw it in full bloom the night before at the local precinct as I waited in line behind them. I’m just hoping that while he cast his ballot in the booth, whatever vote he cast about me and my character I can attempt to overcome. Lord knows, I need to.
Now, back to today...
"Oh, there you are, Mr. Jeffords, sorry, I was just looking in the wrong place."