The Enormity of the Political Onus

I have caucused.

Wait, not ready yet. Need another deep gulp of my vodka-and-antioxidant drink (no tonic in the house). Okay, that’s a little better. What’s that? Yeah, it’s not yet 2:00pm and damned if I care where the sun is, because I am over the yardarm, or with luck soon will be.

So. First of all, registering to vote in Hawai’i is Fcked Up. I know: I have had to do it three times now, and am coming up on Number Four. The first time was within a month of moving here, when I got my Hawai’i driver license and learned I could register to vote at the same time. Hell yes!

The second time was when I actually tried to vote and was told I wasn’t on the list and therefore was not allowed to vote (that is, I was fcking disenfranchised) but the nice lady gave me a new application for registration. I presumed this one worked because I started getting political spam online and via post. O, I was living in a fool’s paradise.

The third time was today, when I tried to cast my ballot during the Democratic caucus and was still not on the fcking list of registered voters. To learn this I had to wait in line with a bunch of other folk, most of whom weren’t on the list either although many, many of them said they had registered online. Which the state lets you do. Except not really, sucker.

So you get to the front of the line and the worker says, Yep, you’re not on the list, you go over to that other line and fill out a registration application and then maybe we’ll let your ass into the Community Association building and you can wear your Big Girl Pants and caucus.

NB: Afterwards I came home and went online and the Hawai’i Office of Elections said hey guess what, I’m an active voter in this state – in Captain Cook, a town 36 miles and 53 minutes north of here. Apparently the state made a mistake in listing my street address but, glory be, had an option to update. Which I clicked. Which let me update the street address but refused to let me update either my town name or my zip code, so the election workers in Captain Cook are surely wondering who this Marta Randall person is, who lives at a non-existent address and doesn’t care enough even to show up.

‘Scuse me. Time for another gulp.

The fourth time will be when I mail my filled-in paper application, which I will send registered mail, return receipt requested. Or maybe I’ll hand-deliver it to the Office of Elections in Pearl City, Oahu. It would be worth the airfare. The office is right close by Ford Island and the museums which I can contemplate as I wait in line (because surely there will be one) and think about the USS Arizona and the valiant women and men who gave their lives, limbs, and sanity so that I COULD FCKING BE DENIED THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

Another gulp. Half-way there.

Okay, one line down, applications filled in and signed, and you’re given a little stiff chit, bright yellow, says pPp on it (why? Sht, this makes as much sense as anything else), which gains you admittance to the Ocean View Community Association main meeting room.

So we’re now inside. This is a big room, and hot, and stuffed with tables and chairs which have, for the most part, been pulled into messy clumps by people gathering to talk story with friends. Which I do. Amazingly, astonishingly, horrifyingly loud in there, but the sliders to the parking lot are firmly closed to make sure that only those worthy of admittance are admitted. There are three precincts caucusing in here: Ocean View, Miloli’i, and Ho’okena. The OV voters outnumber the others by orders of magnitude. Also, the Democratic party workers for OV have the brains of mollusks. Apologies to mollusks.

If you had to go through the song-and-dance fill-in-the-form routine outside (someone referred to it as the Group W bench), once inside you had to enter all your information on yet another sheet. The entries are by precinct but in no particular order, so the sheets (and there are many) are a disordered hodge-podge. Apologies to hodge-podges.

If your name is on the printout list (that was the first line outside, presumably for those Fit for Combat) you’re supposed to stand to one side of the table. Group W is on the other side. Coupled with the number of first-time voters energized by this election, and the number of voters bamboozled by the fcking state’s Elections Office, and the mollusk-brained workers, there’s a semi-orderly howling mob at one side of the table and a completely disorderly howling mob at the other side trying to figure out what the hell is going on. (At this moment I pause to note that the completely disorderly howling mob is striving within itself to resist the forces of entropy, and resolves into a crushed mob at one end (the end you got pushed into if you started on the Fit for Combat side) and a line of thrashing caucusers striving to be geometrical, so that the entire thing looks like nothing so much as a spermatozoon which has realized that, fight as it may, it ain’t never gonna reach that egg.)

Another gulp. This thing ain’t half bad, antioxidant or not.

If and when you reach the table itself, you initial your name on the list. This is easy if your name is on the printed list – that list is in alphabetical order. But if not, then you have to go through hand-scrawled entries, many to a page, attempting to find your own. So it’s loud and hot and noisy and periodically some public-spirited citizen shouts everyone down and bellows incomprehensible statements which change nothing. Does anyone try to form people into lines? Not the mollusks, that’s for sure; folk are willing but without direction, so this just amounts to a great deal of shuffling to and fro, feet stuck in the same place. As a woman who was, for a time, squashed into me by the mob observed, the place needed a good kindergarten teacher.

Then the dogs started barking.

Thank the powers on high for the Spirit of Aloha, or no OV voter would have left that hall alive.

Finally, here’s the correct side of the table. The worker’s eyes have glazed into deer-in-the-headlights horror. Find my name on the list (and for one of the few times in my recent life, I am happy that my handwriting has deteriorated so badly that it actually stands out). Initial it. Get the ballot. Check the box for Bernie and stuff the ballot in the box, and I am so outta there that not even dust is raised in my wake.

Woman coming behind me into the parking lot yelled “Thanks! I was following you!” I said, hell, I was just making it up as I went along. She said, “Maybe, but I just watched your hands!” She waved me a shaka and headed on up the road. The Power of the Finger!

I am, sitting here and contemplating the bottom of my glass, torn. An absentee ballot, which I can request, would eliminate so much of this Sturm und Drang – if the fcking Elections people actually follow through on it. On the other hand, I have always loved showing up at the polling place and hanging out with my voting peeps. On the third hand (we scifi writers are allowed to have third hands), if I think of this too much I will end up volunteering and fcked if I’ll do that.

Oh good, bottom of the glass. Any drink that good deserves another, yes? Yes.

Author: Marta Randall

I was born in 1948 in Mexico DF, Mexico, but have lived in the United States since infancy. I have taught in several sf writing workshops and served in Science Fiction Writers of America as vice-president 1981-1982 and president 1982-1984. My first story was published in New Worlds 5 (1973).

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