The Best of All Possible Democracies

Because I just moved last week, when I went to the polling site for my new precinct yesterday, I had to fill out a paper ballot. The ballot itself was straightforward, although the note that said that my entire vote would be voided should I fill in one standardized test-like oval incorrectly was a little intimidating, and the light was rather dim sitting at a folding table in the foyer of the borough’s municipal building with my ballot shielded for privacy by a rough-hewn scrap of corrugated cardboard, folded in thirds like a fire screen. I didn’t need to show any identification to vote; I just had to put the ballot in an envelope, seal it, write my name on the outside along with my old and new addresses—but then what? The precinct staffers said I needed to stuff the envelope in the ballot box. Which was where? On the folding table, sitting next to the cardboard privacy shield—it wasn’t obvious that the thing was for ballots, though, what with the bottom flaps being only loosely folded together, not taped up; also, the hole on top, also roughly carved, was hidden by a police officer’s hat and ticket book, making it seem like this was not a popular method for the precinct (although reportedly the preferred technique elsewhere).

Walking away from the jury-rigged little box, I wondered, is that poor wee vote in there really going to be counted?

But then I thought, on the other hand, I knew where to go to vote; no one tried to keep me from getting there, either through lies or threats or other thuggery; I didn’t have to wait in line; I didn’t have to use a poorly—or maliciously—designed machine; and the poll workers, although disorganized in a let’s-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn kind of way, were likewise well-intentioned.

But then I thought, in the world’s oldest living democracy, is it so crazy to hope for just a slightly better baseline?