Tuesday, March 21, 2006
POLL VAULT: PLEBISCITES AND PARASITES --
The Story of Voting in Chicago
Today was primary election day. I already felt wretched due to the long weekend. The late morning's intense practice included a Yoga Journal Kapotasana prep with a chair that made me feel so nauseous I almost lost it and didn't want to move.
Nonetheless I put on some clothes and made my way past the goonda gauntlet* and to the polls -- which are inside the nearby high school.**
This year The Walking Man*** gave me my ballot. But it wasn't the usual punch ticket. Instead he handed me a pen and a giant piece of cardboard where you mark an "X" next to your choice. After voting for Cook County Board President, Water Reclamation District representatives and various unknown circuit court judges, you feed it to a scanner.
Apaprently it's the future.****
*The goonda gauntlet is the ubiquitous group of fat, burly, leather-clad ward committeemen or tools of Da Machine or bouncers or whatever who stand as close as is legally possible to the polls and harass, er, intimidate, er, ASK voters to choose their particular candidates. I suspect that saying "I'm a Republican" in this Democratic stronghold might put them off -- but on the other hand it may backfire and set them off. My strategy now is to go around the front of the enormous, block-long high school -- no small thing considering yesterday's piercing 20 mph wind -- and avoid them altogether.
**This is the same high school wherein the exquisite little 1980 film My Bodyguard takes place. And yes, Joan Cusack co-stars. The musical Grease, on the other hand, was inspired by co-writer Jim Jacobs's experiences as a greaser at Chicago's Taft High School. Grease opened at Kingston Mines Theatre here in 1971 and moved to Broadway the following year (where it became the second-longest running show in its history).
***The Walking Man is a thin guy whom I've seen trucking around the neighborhood for years, in all types of weather. But lately he's been missing and I've been worried. When I saw him at the polls I wanted to exclaim, "Hey! Walking Man! I've been wondering if you're OK" but since he was an election judge I figured it might not be a good idea. I did learn though that his name is Bruce.
****Oops! The new machines didn't work so well after all. Instead of the hanging chads we've always had (and never complained about or seemed to notice in this city where even dead people vote once or twice) there was trouble with the giant new cartoon ballots. After the polls closed it was learned that at least 15 percent of the votes didn't register and must be counted by hand; entrenched Cook County Board President John Stroger***** is apparently posed to contest the election from his hospital bed, where he remains after suffering a stroke several days ago. His opponent in the race is Forrest Claypool, former Chicago Park District Superintendent and former Chief of Staff to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
*****Cook County is the second largest county in the US and the 19th largest government in America -- meaning there's lots of $$ to be bandied about. During his long tenure Stroger built a giant new hospital that bears his name.****** Very Huey P. Long of him if you ask me. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
******When he fell ill, Stroger was rushed not to his namesake but to Rush University Medical Center.