Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Harsh Glare of the Voting Machine

The "final ballot review" screen on the Electronic Voting Machine gave me an interesting moment of pause yesterday. As anyone who knows me well knows, it isn't very often that technology does anything but frustrate me. But in the voting booth at the Centreville Free Library, the better part of a decade involved in politics came sweeping back to me.

I went door to door in St. Mary's County for George W. Bush in 2000. Was a proud member of the College Republicans when it seemed liked me and my roommate were the only GOPhers on campus. I was selected by my peers both Democrat and Republican to defend the War in Iraq at a well attended campus forum.

I went door to door in St. Mary's County for Bob Ehrlich in 2002, and again in 2006. In 2004 I was heavily involved in Sportsmen for George Bush and Young Professionals for Bush. And the coup de grace? I served as an environmental advisor to John McCain's presidential campaign of 2008, and went to St. Paul, MN as an elected delegate to the Republican National Convention.

After the Convention, I became an alternate member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, and President of the East Baltimore County Republican Club. I was an unofficial candidate for Maryland's House of a Republican.

To say the least, my GOP bona fides were in good order.

Until yesterday.

I looked at a completed ballot that was overwhelmingly Democratic. For the first time in my life I had voted for a Democrat for Governor, Congress, and Comptroller. For County Commissioner, my ballot was 3-2 in favor of Democrats. For State Senate, Democrat. Two out of three votes for the House of Delegates went to Democrats (and the other was more than likely wasted on a write-in).

When someone used to ask me, "Who are you going to vote for?" The answer was always easy: Republicans. This time around, it is easier to list the Republicans I voted for individually, because the list is so short. Eric Wargotz for US Senate, David Dunmyer and Bob Simmons for QA County Commissioners, a write-in for Dick Sossi for House of Delegates, and a vote for Gary Hofmann for Queen Anne's Sheriff. That's the long and (rather) short of it.

I found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable with not only the Republican talking points, but with the way they were being delivered. It seemed that anyone who disagreed was looked at with a tinge of hatred. As if 235 years of American democracy had come to this: we couldn't disagree with one another in a civilized way. Which is pretty scary, since it is the fundamental basis of the American system of government. We do not run into the streets (with a few exceptions) with pipes and torches. We instead run into the voting booth.

One ballot does not a Democrat make. But certainly now more than ever, I sit at the crossroads of politics with no clear direction.

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