I’ve decided to finally gather all of my thoughts on the elections. The polls closed in Montana just over a half hour ago (at 8pm). This means I cast my ballot about 12 hours ago.
It was actually only the second time I’ve officially gone to a polling place to vote — the first time being when I went to the community hall in Newell, SD, to cast my votes for the local school board. That was only a few months after my 18th birthday. Since then, I’ve cast two absentee ballots as I’ve been away at college for all big elections since I turned 18 (absentee in 2000 and 2002 — 2002 was a time of big elections in South Dakota). In 2000, I cast my first presidential vote for Bush. Today, I used my second one to vote for Kerry.
A lot of things have changed since my first presidential vote in 2000. I graduated from college. I got a job. I abandoned South Dakota for Big Sky Country (also known as Montana).
With a new state comes new politics. It’s hard to get a grasp of the politics in a new state. Of course, I’ve only had 11 months to become apprised of Montana politics. I had 23 years in South Dakota. However, I did my research and, for the most part, ignored the annoying, abrasive TV ads. The big race in Montana was the governor race between Brian Schweitzer (D) and Bob Brown (R). Also of note was the House race, though I don’t know that it was very hotly contested. Among the ballot initiatives were I-147, a measure to lift the ban on cyanide leach mining, CI-96, an initiative to amend the Montana constitution to only recognize marriage as between a man and a woman, and I-148, an initiative to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.
For posterity’s sake, I want to record the votes I made today that I felt were most important to me.
- President of the United States of America – John Kerry (D)
- Governor of Montana – Brian Schweitzer (D)
- Montana legislative representative – Mike Fellow (L)
- I-147 – voted AGAINST lifting the ban on cyanide leach mining
- CI-96 – voted AGAINST using the constitution of Montana to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation
- I-148 – voted FOR allowing the limited use of marijuana for medicinal purposes (Yes, mom, I’m such a heathen — but you suspected that didn’t you?)
Now, I want to talk about my voting experience today. Because of redrawn precincts, I managed to show up at the wrong polling place. Whoops. Five minutes later, I had driven from the Library to the Cathedral. When I arrived, there was a very short line. I was asked for my ID, the helpul election helper verified my precinct and pointed me to the correct area. There I again showed my ID, signed my name for further verification and was given my ballot. The ballot came in a sleeve. Montana uses optical scan voting, so I filled my ballot out by connecting the butt of the arrow to the point. Pretty simple. I checked and rechecked my ballot as though it was the ACT or SAT. I put it back in its sleeve where the election official slid it out of its sleeve and into the ballot box in such a manner that she never actually sees the ballot. All in all, my polling place had its stuff together. I grabbed my “My Vote Counted” sticker and bounced on out within ten minutes of arriving. However, a healthy line was starting to form as I left.
All day, I’ve been reading the experiences of other voters around the nation as comment after comment gathers at Jason Kottke’s incredible How’d Your Vote Go? post. I’ve wasted quite a bit of time today reading the different experiences — from people standing in line for hours to them having to vote provisionally to asking for paper ballots. It’s really awesome to read this, and it has to be the most comprehensive gathering of voter experiences today. The thread has made me appreciative of our democratic process. As of late, I’ve been feeling pessimistic about the direction of our country. But this makes me feel hopeful as well as thankful that I live in a country where I can easily walk the two blocks to my polling place, be greeted with friendly smiles, and cast my votes freely for candidates and issues entirely of my choosing.
Although, I do hear votes are selling well on eBay.