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My wife and daughters waited in line three hours Sunday at Horner Park to vote early. I was in and out of my usual voting site in 20 minutes Tuesday morning. Maybe this new trend of voting on Election Day will catch on.
But before I could post I had to vote. So I walked the two blocks up to my usual voting site, Courtenay School. I went around back to the rec room entrance. There was no flag, no line, and no activity. The door was locked. A small cluster of bewildered voter wannabees formed.
We went around to the front of the school and went inside to find out where we should go. There's a notice on the front door, someone said brusquely. We consulted the notice. Instead of telling us where to go, it gave a number to call to find out. We got out our cell phones, but the number was constantly busy. There was also a website to consult, and the woman with a smartphone gave it a shot. But she couldn't connect.
Someone going into Courtenay said there was voting a couple of blocks north at Ravenswood Elementary.
We headed over there, and spotted the flapping flag from about a block away. Our hopes were high. When we got inside someone directed us to the basement, where we encountered a line I estimated at about 20 minutes long. I told someone my address. You're good, she said. But some 20 minutes later, having reached the head of the line, I found out I wasn't good. My name was neither on their list nor on their extension list. A judge led me to a spot alongside the east wall of the basement and consulted her smartphone. The reception's terrible down here, she explained. Time went by but eventually she got through and was able to tell me that everyone on Paulina south of Berteau was now supposed to vote at the Resurrection Covenant Church on Marshfield.
That was on the far side of Irving Park Road, a busy six-lane thoroughfare that heretofore had served as a rather practical boundary between precincts. If I wasn't a judge I'd have shown up at Courtenay myself, the election judge confided. They send out notices but I just throw them away.
Apparently we do too. And then there were all those robocalls from the alderman I kept hanging up on. Perhaps he'd been trying to tell us something important. But what about our local Booster? The Booster would have given us a heads-up about precincts being realigned. But the Booster disappeared years ago.
So I headed south, ducking inside when I passed our house to fortify myself with a banana, crossed Irving Park Road in the middle of a block, and made my way to Resurrection Covenant. Questions about church-state separation came to mind, but I set them aside for another day. Again there was a flag, a flight of stairs down to the basement, and a line in the hall. But it turned out that this line was for just one of the three precincts jammed in together at the church, and my precinct had no line at all. (Not that I knew what precinct I was in until I asked at a desk.)
At this point my voting experience was going on two hours, but given what my wife had been through a couple of days earlier I felt I was still playing with house money. What happened next, however, felt a lot like a hand rifling my wallet.
I voted. I was given two long pieces of cardboard and a pen to ink them with, and when my civic duty was done I looked around for someone to hand the ballots to. There was a guy running them into the machine, but he was a little backed up, and as I waited I realized that there were no sleeves for the ballots and if I wanted to I could see how everyone around me had voted. Certainly the guy at the machine could see, because he was holding the ballots in both hands face up as he fed them into the slot.
"I never look," he said. "I've been doing this 21 years."
But for 20 years you had sleeves, I said. He shrugged. I asked around as to where they were. Nobody seemed to know or care.
It is annoying to be led on a merry chase around the 47th Ward when all you want to do is cast a ballot. But to discover that you aren't casting it in anything resembling privacy is beyond annoying. If all this had happened in, say, Ohio, I wouldn't be blogging. I'd be calling the U.S. Attorney.