We’ve been gearing up for the mayoral election here in New York City for months now – sexting scandals and all – so I knew today’s new activity should be a nod to that (the election, not the sexting). And what better way to experience it than to be part of the democratic process by voting?
Unfortunately for me, a British visitor, it’s not that easy. So when Ryan suggested I tag along with him, I jumped at the chance to see how it’s done in America.
After work, we headed to a middle school in Park Slope so that he could do his bit. After reading about broken scanning machines and queues snaking out of doorways, I expected hours worth of waiting in the cold. But in fact, the process was so quick and easy (which seemed great at the time, but I later read that only 24% of voters turned up. Oops)
I was also a little surprised by how they let me join him for the whole thing. I was given a ‘I voted’ sticker, stood by Ryan’s side as he picked up the various forms and was even allowed in the voting booth. There’d be none of this in England, surely?
It was interesting to see the differences – in council elections in the UK, I remember using a ranked voting system (numbering preferences one through five, for example), whereas Ryan simply put a single mark by his choices. Another interesting feature was how different parties can put their support behind the same candidate for a role, so one name could appear on the ballot more than once. For example, Bill de Blasio appeared on the ballot for mayor a couple of times – as the Democratic choice and the Working Families choice. Voters then check one box. This means that, while all the votes for him obviously go to him, you can throw your support behind one party over another. Even though the results wouldn’t show who he had won on behalf of, you as the voter would know who you voted for. And I liked that.
On the back of the form, there were also a handful of referendums for Ryan to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Afterwards, he took his forms to a scanner and a message popped up: ‘Your vote has been registered.’ Hurrah!
While it was annoying I couldn’t vote, I got ridiculously excited by the process. I know it might sound silly, but I find it really exciting that you get to have a say and put in your two cents for a greater thing. I’ll never take that for granted.