Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Farewell, Old Voting Booth

I voted last night, not without a touch of sadness. Sadness not for anything to do with politics per se, though there's plenty of that sort of sadness to go around, but rather nostalgia for a bygone era, sadness for the demise of the old New York voting machine, the voting machine I had cast every prior vote on, having always been a New York City resident.

For me, that machine was a fitting symbol of our democracy and of our place in the body politic. Even for an atheist like me there was an appeal to the almost sacred and most assuredly ritualistic nature of those old machines. For me those machines and voting went hand-in-hand. There was something majestic about the big red handle you'd pull to the right to close the curtains. And then you were inside a zone of privacy, almost like a confessional, where you would exercise your sacred duty of citizenship. Flip the little black levers down for your candidates of choice. Then, after all of your choices were made, pull the big red handle back to the left to register your votes and open the curtains.

That was the kind of voting machine my mother took me into by the hand as a tyke, to watch her exercise her civic duty, perhaps when I was four, when she voted for JFK. My first time in the booth as a voter was 1974, the year of a gubernatorial race, when Hugh Carey was the victor. I probably voted Socialist Workers that year. I know I voted for the Socialist Workers' candidate, Peter Camejo, not Carter, in 1976, my first presidential election. Over the years I've rarely missed a general election, and hardly any primaries either.

Marking an ephemeral paper ballot last night I truly felt a great sense of loss. And, I suppose, of advancing age.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The anonymous cook says:
My sentiments exactly - I remember being taken by my mother to the local elementary school for every election from the time I was an infant until maybe pre-teenhood - there were small replicas of the voting machines front panel(complete with levers), about the size of a large clipboard, which you could use to familiarize yourself with its workings - I don't think I ever played with a toy that fascinated me more. My own children were in the election booth when they were two months old, and at every election since. As they got older, one got to pull the lever to close the door & one pulled it at the end to set my vote. Last night they opted not to go & see the new setup, & I can't blame them - I hate the new machines! I miss the old machines! I miss the levers large and small, I miss the ancient typeface, I miss feeling like I should be wearing a fedora when I vote - in short, as someone who is also feeling pretty old right about now, the whole thing stinks!

4:07 PM  
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