Charles Petzold

Happy Election Day from Real America!

November 4, 2008
New York, N.Y.

It sure is tough to vote where I live. The first big problem is the inconvenient location of the poll sites. I had to walk a full 500 feet from my apartment building to the New York University dormitory where they decided to hide the voting booths.

Then there's the typical confusion about Election Districts and Assembly Districts, what number is this and what number is that, wasting precious seconds of my day finding the right line.

And what a line! At least eight people stood in front of me, and I pulled a magazine from my back pocket in anticipation of a long wait.

Then I discovered I was in the wrong line! Because my last name begins with a letter from the last half of the alphabet, I was pulled out and made to stand in a much shorter line.

The most suspenseful part of voting is when the worker behind the table looks in the big book for your name — almost certainly expunged because someone with a similar name had a few too many parking tickets. But no, there it was as usual.

And then, as if on cue, the ancient voting machines with their curtains and levers and little knobs decided to keep on working as I stepped inside and registered my choices.

I had left my apartment at 8:40, and when I returned home — exhausted by the trials of civic responsibility — it was 9:00. Now I ask you: How can something as simple as voting be made so time consuming and complicated?

I live on an island called Manhattan, also known as the borough of Manhattan within New York City, and New York County within New York State.

The island has only 23 square miles of land, but is home to about 1.6 million people (source), a larger population than the states of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, and Idaho (source).

In 2000, 14.2% of the New York County vote went to the current President (source), and in 2004, 16.7% (source), despite the fact that his party shamelessly held their convention in Madison Square Garden. It's interesting how those percentages no longer seem out of line.

I'm curious about the voting percentages this year. The recent talk about "real Americans" seemed deliberately to exclude me and my neighbors, and I even saw one candidate incite a crowd to boo the newspaper many New Yorkers read every morning!

Most optimal would be an outcome where all Americans — New Yorkers and otherwise — can work together in repairing the damage of the past eight years.