Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

Mi Voto

By Luis Vazquez - 11.02.2010

I am so angry right now.

I went to vote this morning at 7 am.  I called yesterday to make sure that I was at the right precinct.

So I show up this morning and I am asked for my name. No one in the room is bilingual and it is an all White staffed precinct.  I pronounce my name several times and spell it out each time and they cannot find my name.

I then give them my license and they check and they still cannot find my name.  I ask if I can look at the sheet for my name and they say it is not allowed.

I get sent to another table that has another precinct coverage for another area.  My name is not on this list either.

I go through the exact same process; however this time I give them my license first to guarantee no misspellings. Again, my name could not be found.

I am still being really nice but becoming frustrated and saying to myself –these are volunteers and they are doing the best they can do.

I then get told to go to the county court to check out what happened, which is clear across town, or fill out a provisional ballot.  Of course, I said I would fill out a provisional ballot.

They hand me the ballot and I get put at this high desk that they call a booth — no privacy and everyone is looking at me.  I open my provisional ballot and it is all in Spanish.

Some of the ways they presented things on the ballot were not written well in Spanish, so I also asked for the English version for everything to make sure that I did not miss anything that would enable me to make an informed decision.

When I asked for the English version, the lady behind the table proceeds to tell me to just fill out the Spanish version.  I asked her again politely to give me the English version. She proceeds to tell me, “Why can’t you fill out the Spanish version?”

At that point, I decided to make this a teachable moment and asked the monitor to listen to my discussion with the lady behind the table.

I shared with her that she should not be making assumptions and instead it would be most appropriate if she would just ask the voter what they would prefer or hand out the English version first, and then share that there are options of language for the ballots.

The monitor apologized to me and said that what just happened was totally inappropriate.  I then fill out the provisional ballot and got told that it will be mailed in and that I could check on the website 10 days after today to see if it got counted. 

I then stated, “What if for some reason it does not get counted. What do I do then?”

They stated that they couldn’t do anything about that situation if it occurs.

I was frustrated and angry, but, due to KMA training, learned to restrain myself.

Before I left, however, I stated that “This was the worst experience I had ever had voting and I had been voting at the same precinct for the last 15 years without any problems”.

Then, the lady behind the table proceeded to ask me what I did for a living and where I worked.

I asked her, “What does this have to do with me voting?”

She stated, “I just wanted to know.”

The monitor again apologized to me for such treatment.

As I walked out the door I called my wife and told her what happened and to prepare herself.

She walked in to vote and stood almost sideways to see the names on the sheets for voting.  She called me right after she voted and told me that they had misspelled her last name, even though it was right on her voting card and right below her name was mine written in the correct way.

She told them that, “My husband was just here and you made him fill out a provisional ballot, but his name is right here.”

They looked at her and stated,  “He must have gone to the wrong precinct.”  She said, “No! He was just here,” but the discussion didn’t go any further and she did not want to deal with their lying about me just being there, so she left.

I thought about going back to vote and called, but was told that it would invalidate the vote since the provisional ballot was already done.

As you can tell I am fuming and haven’t felt this way in a while.

Then I thought — I feel this way and I am well educated. I can only imagine someone who is not and experiencing this process.

I take voting seriously and I am disgusted about my whole experience this morning.  I am going to call the county court house to complain.

In the meantime, I just wanted to share.

4 Responses so far

Mr Vazquez,
In this politically incorrect society these days it is not suprising that you have had such a lousy experiance!
As a member of the non Hispanic/Latino community I am ashamed of the way your voting experiance happened and I appologize, even though not my fault directly, for the incompetance of those you had to deal with. I offer you this HUGGGGGGGG because a hug always makes me feel a little better when I am angry.
I am just an old lady with sincere intentions so please take no offence at my bold offer of comfort,…….and a 🙂
with a twinkle in my eyes because a smile that comes from the heart never hurts either when you share it with someone who needs one.

Luis,

This is a powerful story and I would very much like to share it with my diversity council at Boeing.

I am sorry for what you had to go through. And so glad that you didn’t just give up and walk away. I wonder how many people do? And I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t the intent?

Luis, you are not the only one wondering why it was so difficult to exercise your right to vote, I shudder to think that the intent of these people are to discourage us from voting. Bravo to you for not just walking away but trying to educate them on how to deal with the situation correctly.
I am curious about why you were asked about your profession, as it was completely irrelevant. Once again i commend you for not answering the question.
Good Post, Thanks for sharing your story.

Luis,

Your story reminded me of an incident that I witnessed at a precinct in Madison during the 2000 election. Several “concerned citizens,” who I later learned were actually operatives of the Republican party, had stationed themselves directly behind the poll workers and each and every time a voter with a Hispanic name came forward they would loudly and defiantly proclaim “challenge!” In every instance, the voter’s ID and registration status was confirmed, and as far as I can tell the only basis of the challenge was the person’s ethnicity. The methods used seemed geared to making voting as uncomfortable as possible for the affected individuals and most likely discourage them and other Hispanics who might hear of the incidents from exercising their right to vote. I was told that what they were doing was legal, but it seemed to me another instance of technically legal but morally reprehensible behavior for purely political reasons.

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