Or, “How rumors about sinister covert organizations get started.”
This morning, I put on my usual black ensemble and added an overcoat. As it was still a bit dark out, I brought along a flashlight so I could read while I waited. (No need—the sky lightened considerably after I left home at six.)
I figured I’d either be the first one at the polling place, or there’d be a line around the block already. It was the former.
At this point I should probably mention I live down in the Mission District—and not the “nice” part, either. I happen to like it. My neighbors may be poor and not necessarily speak English as a first language—but they’re polite, law abiding, and they work their asses off. Still, they are a bit reserved around me—I grew accustomed long ago to people looking at me and wondering if I was a particularly clueless undercover INS agent.
The group running the polling station gave me the hairy eyeball. I smiled and tried to look nonthreatening—with limited success. Bald six foot fishbelly-white people kind of stand out in my neighborhood.
A few more folks drifted up. Many Hispanics have a foolproof way to deal with suspicious looking white people; a fellow said “Hello,” smiled very politely, and then switched over to high-speed colloquial Spanish to chat with every other soul there but me. But I’m used to that, too.
By the time the poll opened at seven, there were maybe ten people waiting. The fellow in charge stepped out and asked, “Okay, who was here first?” Nine fingers pointed at me.
I went. I inked the appropriate lines, and headed for the ballot box.
The kid manning it was in his mid twenties, I think, although he looked twelve to me. Very softly and very nervously, he explained that since mine was to be the first ballot into the box in precinct 3915, he wanted me to sign the paper receipt scrolling out of the box as it notes each ballot as it goes in. I nodded, and picked up the pen. Thought about the probability of there being funny business today, given that the incumbent routinely disappears people who argue with him to Guantanamo Bay. Now, John Hancock always wrote his signature really big—despite the legend, he didn’t make a crack about King George III’s eyesight—but a legend doesn’t have to be true for it to provide a good example. I signed—big. Then printed—big. Then added my phone number—big.
By then, there were people queued up waiting for ballots—and watching me. The fellow in charge said, “Uh, sir, could you also verify that there are no ballots already in the box before I lock it up?” There were two hatches in the side, both open. “Uh, it’s kind of dark in there, I know…” In fact, it was pitch black; the polling station was a garage, lit by a few bare bulbs scattered around.
“By a remarkable coincidence,” I said, and pulled eighteen inches worth of MagLight out of my vest pocket.
I heard a sigh from the queue. I looked up. A dozen people were grinning at me. I don’t know if they thought I was a paranoid reporting to the Democrats, a Republican saboteur, a junior diplomat dragooned by the UN Elections commission to go in early and then phone in a data point, or what—but all dozen knew just from looking at me that something was up. I looked back at the guy in charge; he was wearing the same grin.
When Fate hands you a role, however minor, you either play it or get off the stage. Ergo, I would like to publicly state that San Francisco precinct 3915’s ballot box had no ballots in it when I inspected it. I also have two grimy spots on the knees of my trousers to add weight to my statement that I knelt and felt all around inside the damn thing. The first ballot cards in there are numbers 471193, 616543, 616545, and 616548; I have the stubs.
If any traitorous maggot feels like gaming this election in my precinct, be warned that one of the few things I’m far to the right about is guns. And my .357 only holds six rounds—so I practice enough to make sure that’s all I’m ever likely to need.
Walking home, it occurred to me that as of 7:20 this morning, I represented 100% of all the voters in my precinct who had cast a ballot in today’s election. So I chased myself down the street, tackled myself, and demanded to know how I voted.
Based on this extremely early exit poll—the sample size was only one, but on the other hand, every single person who had voted to that point agreed to answer this reporter’s questions—precinct 3915 shows 100% for Kerry. (In the local Board of Education race, it’s 100% for a fellow named Starchild—a local escort / exotic dancer.) That’s not enough to call anything just yet—but we can hope.