Florida's Election Hangover
Let's face it: Voting in America is a mess. Voting in Florida (most of which is in America) can be the messiest.
Poorly trained staff, faulty equipment, insufficient supplies of ballots and other essentials, like the scanners necessary to actually record our votes; you can't help but feel that, in the world's most successful and advanced nation, it doesn't have to be this way. Don't we have the technology?
The wait times have been the greatest challenge across the state, as long as seven hours at polling places in Downtown Miami; precincts that, in 2008, were among the very last to close. Apparently little was done to improve their service and performance since the last presidential election. We haven't seen this many lines in Miami since the 1980s: RIMSHOT!
At 9 PM EST last night, two hours after the polls officially closed, 40% of the precincts in Miami-Dade County were still open. Hundreds remained in line waiting to vote and state law requires that all those who lined up by 7 PM are permitted to cast a ballot. Police were called to a Little Havana site after Romney supporters accused an Obama campaigner of holding a spot in line for a late voter. At 11 PM, four hours after polls closed, with the presidential race too close to call in Florida, there were still hundreds of South Floridians waiting to vote.
By about 11:15 PM, the election was over and we were still voting. On the bright side, that meant Florida didn't even have a chance to fuck this one up. In fact, many Floridians missed the election results because they were still in line waiting to vote. Isn't that just the American way.
As you can see from this results map, screen-capped at 2 AM/EST, Florida went from asleep at the wheel to asleep in the backseat:
And we woke up in the same position. Which is to say, no position at all.
"The reason we're still tabulating is because voters had until 7 p.m. to turn in absentee ballots and we got a large number in the final hours," Christina White, Miami-Dade's (soon to be former) deputy supervisor of elections, told the Miami New Times. "We're doing our best," White says. "Our staff worked through the night."
By 11:20AM today, we still had no idea know which presidential candidate won Florida and Miami-Dade was still "doing [their] best" counting another 20,000 absentee ballots.
I just hope they can get all the votes counted before the polls reopen in 2016. Perhaps we should start lining up now.
However, there were just as many, if not more, reports (particularly via social media) of short waits and smooth sailing at other precincts around the state.
I'm afraid that people are seeing disenfranchisement where there's just plain incompetence.
At a precinct in Morningside, one of the scanning machines went down and the predominantly Haitian voters in the polling place began shouting, "Triiiiiiiickeryyyyy! Triiiiiiiickeryyyyy!"
That's a concern because it means we might be missing actual disenfranchisement where it's occurring.
However, I'm not belittling the impact of this year's spectacular incompetence. I'm simply saying, I don't believe there was a massive conspiracy to disenfranchise the entire State of Florida; they just managed to bumble their way into doing that.
And now we just have to hope that they really counted all our votes. But we'll never know. And does it matter anyway?
In this election, Americans have even managed to turn disenfranchisement into a partisan issue. Shouldn't we all want as many people as possible to exercise their right to vote? After all, if you don't exercise it, it could atrophy.
Voter disenfranchisement seems less of a concern today than voter disillusionment.
The popular sentiment in South Florida for weeks has been "¡No puedo esperar hasta que se acaba esta mierda!" Which is Spanish for, "I can't wait until this shit is over!" Voters are afflicted with a form of PTSD or PESD (post-election stress disorder or PRE-election stress disorder, in this case). When you ask people today, "Are you happy Obama won?" The typical response is, "I'm just happy it's over."
There's a profound malaise after the most expensive and, what felt like, the longest, most divisive and least productive election in modern history.
Think of all that America could accomplish with the resources and money—the estimated $6 billion—spent on these political campaigns. On an effort that ultimately swayed nobody. Well, okay, that amount of money would only keep the federal government going for about a day. But I'm talking about all the good it could do in the hands of responsible Americans, not the people who run our country. Instead of, say, spending it on the most expensive collection of diss track mixtapes in history, by way of TV spots, mailers, billboards, et al. I received so much spam from Barack Obama the last week, you'd think he was selling penis enlargement pills. If the president could create jobs the way his campaign created spam, the election would have been over before it started.
Regardless of the outcome, it's impossible to escape these questions: Did any (average) Americans win anything? Did America actually move "forward" in any meaningful way?
There's a civil war in this country where both sides are too blind to see that, even if they "win," we all lose.
When people ask me, "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?" I reply, "I'm an American."
How can we have a legitimate discussion about "hope" or "change" while we continue to allow the pendulum of power to swing back and forth between the same two political parties over and over again? Why would anyone in power ever want to change anything? Their mission would logically be to maintain the status quo so they can preserve that power.
The American people might very well be insane, by the criteria of Einstein's famous definition: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
We'll see what happens. We'll see if we can institute reform to get our elections logistics to run as smooth as they do in Brazil. We'll see if there's still a TSA systematically violating the constitutional rights of Americans hundreds of thousands of times each day. We'll see if the President will instruct the feds to stand down and respect the rights of voters who legalized or decriminalized marijuana in their states last night. We'll see if we take action to reinforce our grid and infrastructure.
Congratulations, Mr. President. Now you've got four more years. We'll see if there's hope or change moving forward. Or just status quo.
Meanwhile, Florida is officially worse than a laughingstock. We're an irrelevant laughingstock.