I voted the other day. It was stressful. I had to sign my name.
I don’t sign well under pressure. I get performance anxiety. And hand cramps.
The ballot part was easy. Just like a standardized test. I filled in the little ovals next to my best and final answers using a number 2 pencil, making sure I didn’t write on the ballot or mark outside the circle. At the bottom it said Important: Vote Both Sides. I was surprised because I thought I was only supposed to vote for a candidate from one party. But it also said See instructions for voting on the other side. So I turned the ballot over.
On the other side were some New Jersey public measures to vote. I read the measures carefully with a magnifying glass and again marked my preferences deliberately with a number 2 pencil within the scantron ovals.
Below the public measures were the voting instructions which said Only use a black or blue ink pen to mark your ballot.
I had now unwittingly committed voter fraud by number 2 pencil. I quickly marked up the shiny lead dots one by one with a fine, jet black Sharpie. Given that I had just stupidly zoned out the simple instructions, I felt perhaps I should reconsider the measure to legalize marijuana in New Jersey.
Satisfied that I had correctly filled out the ballot, I folded it and placed it in the official mail-in certificate envelope. This is where it became stressful.
On the certificate there is a height-challenged signature box. On the left is a bold X. Next to it is a long line which extends out to the end of the box. Under the line it reads signature of voter is required.
The actual space to sign my name is about 6mm high. I have a 32pt signature in Times New Illegible font. To write any smaller requires needle nose fingers and fine motor skills I do not possess.
I wonder if my vote will be rejected if my signature rambles outside the box. If I scribble it as I normally do it will deface the warning informing me of penalties for voter fraud if my ugly, big ass signature fails.
And who is going to verify that my signature is mine if I am not there in person to prove that I am not a robot by showing a driver’s license and two forms of ID?
The signature I have on file with voter records is old. It was made during a time when signature boxes were spacious and you could fill them up proudly with the bold, swirly John Hancock equivalent of urban sprawl.
Over time my signature has degraded. There is a lot less definition in the trailing letters. It is more of a squiggly line with abrupt bumps now. Like cursive EKG on life support. My signature is completely illegible. I read it and wonder who I am.
This is what I am thinking when I go to sign my name on this most important of documents. Also, what happens if I run out of ink mid-name. It has happened before.
Before I actually sign I take a couple of practice runs on a white strip of adhesive tape. I leave a lot of black ink on my desk.
I wish I could machine vote in person. I like the big retro box hidden behind drapes. I like the definitive thunk when I pull a lever or press a button to cast my vote. The finality fills me with democratic pride. It reminds me that unlike Oz, in this country you can’t ignore the man behind the curtain.
I take a deep breath and sign my name to the best of my ability.
I seal the certificate containing my ballot and place it into an envelope that I can drop into an official ballot box where it will be dutifully examined by handwriting police fully trained in the art of hooks, spaces, slants, and hesitations.
On the way to deposit my ballot I am confronted with a flurry of lawn signs determined to change my decision, including one resident who I guess would like me to submit a write-in vote for a realtor and another for a daughter who graduated high school in June.
And finally the ballot box and the moment of civic pride I have been preparing for. I wave at the security camera above and hold up my drivers license to prove I am not a robot. Then I drop the envelope into the secure box as the lid bangs shut with a satisfying thunk accepting my vote.
At this point I realize that I have also brainlessly deposited some utility bills that I had intended to mail.
And it is too late to change my position on legalizing marijuana.
Because one thing about democracy. After we vote, we have to accept the outcome.