Oakenshield doesn’t vote and how I spent my afternoon #richardarmitage
This morning, POP!Thorin and I drove to the town hall to do our civic duty — vote in the Wisconsin presidential primary (or “presidential preference,” as they seem to be calling them now).
Usually at our polling place, you walk in and vote and walk out, but there were an awful lot of cars in the parking lot today.
“Just so you know,” I said, “Usually we’re not allowed to take weapons into polling places. So you might want to leave your sword in the car.”
“I can’t leave Orcrist in the car!” he protested.
“Why not?” I asked.
“It’s stuck to my hand,” he noted.
“I’ll only take you in if you can hide in my pocket,” I said.
“But I’m going to vote,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“I’ve researched all the issues!”
“Just between you and me, all of the candidates have been very silent on precious metal and jewel mining.”
“Where are they on dragon defense?”
“Elvish foreign policy?”
He seemed to be at a loss for words. Odd.
“What about off shore tax shelters for stateless short people with a lot of gold?”
“Omm—-” he continued to struggle. “I am the King! My mountain shelters my taxes.”
“Good point,” I said.
As I walked in I noticed the poll workers helping someone vote who was unable to leave his or her car. Curbside voting!
We got to the door and saw what counts as a long line around here. The first poll volunteer said that the wait was approximately forty minutes. I shook my head. The town has changed a lot since I voted here last, in 1998.
We got in a little further and someone checked my address to see what ward we live in. I said I wasn’t registered.
“Me neither!” Thorin piped up.
“What?” the poll worker said.
“I thought you said you’d be quiet,” I said to my pocket.
I heard a muffled noise.
The worker looked at me a little oddly. “OK, then do you have identification?”
“I sure do,” I said. The news has been full of nothing lately but the new voter ID law.
“And have you lived in the state for at least 28 days?”
“OK, then go through that door on the left with the yellow sign.”
“I don’t have an ID,” Thorin whispers from my pocket.
“Doesn’t matter, ” I say. “You’re not a citizen.”
“You just said it, you’re the King under the Mountain!”
“Oh. Does that mean I can’t vote?”
“You can vote in Erebor. If there’s a constitutional revolution. And they leave you on the throne afterwards. Which would be doubtful, I think. Now be quiet.”
We enter the side room, I present my Wisconsin driver’s license and fill out a form. They look something up in a computer and print out a little sticker that verifies my eligibility. We leave the room and get back in the line.
I had initially planned to take pictures of Thorin watching me vote, but there was a shortage of places for him to pose and he didn’t feel comfortable. He felt like people were watching him.
Frankly, so did I. For the last fifteen years I’ve voted or caucused in huge city precincts where no one knew me. Here, I got to the head of the line where they put the sticker in a book and ask you to affirm your identity and address, and it was Mrs. P. from church taking the stickers. She passed me on to Mrs. M. from church to get my signature. And then they asked me whether I wanted a paper ballot or a touchscreen terminal. It was a weird moment. I didn’t think the church ladies would suppress my vote but I also didn’t want them seeing it. (Especially since I think I voted for someone they wouldn’t vote for.) So I opted for a touchscreen. And then, guess who was standing next to that, offering to explain it to me? Mrs. Q., whose daughter I played duets with in junior high and high school.
“I didn’t know you’d moved back,” she said.
“Big crowd here,” I remarked.
“It’s been packed all day,” she agreed. “We might get fifty percent turnout. Well, next year the town was going to open a second polling place anyway. Don’t you want the paper ballot?”
“Should I?” I ask. “It kind of reminds me of taking the SAT.”
“No,” she said, “Just the line is longer for the touchscreen.”
Eventually, I gave her my slip (voter #1304 in my ward) and proceeded to the machine. That was the easiest part. I selected my party (Wisconsin has an open primary but you can only vote in one contest) as I was not voting crossover this time, and picked a presidential candidate. Then I voted for appeals court judge, town supervisor, some county official, and school board. When I was done, the machine printed out a paper receipt that I could read, and then I pressed “cast ballot” and I was all done.
Mrs. Q. gave me a sticker.
“That was exhausting,” Thorin said.
“What was exhausting?”
“Being still that whole time and not poking you with my sword.”
“Quit it with the double entendres.”
“I’m serious! I wanted to cut a path to the head of the line.”
“Thank you for not embarrassing me, oh small overpriced piece of plastic.”
“I’d be insulted if I didn’t know you were kidding. I deserve a reward.”
“What do you want?”
“Can I have your sticker?”
“You didn’t vote.”
“OK, if I can’t have your sticker, let’s go to that hole in the wall Mexican place. They have two-for-one margaritas on Tuesdays.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“I have my ways,” he said.
“You’ve been going out with dad.”
“I’m not saying. But they’ve never said anything about my sword.”
There’s been a Mexican restaurant (or what counts as Mexican) in our little town for about ten years. It’s a bit of an institution and it fulfills every stereotypical need that a Wisconsinite has of a Mexican restaurant.
Like this “Queso Oaxaca,” the contents of which are only notionally related to actual Oaxaca cheese. But we like it. Thorin really likes it.
And these delightful tequila cocktails. In my experience the margarita is kind of a border and resort drink, but we’re happy to call it Mexican around here.
“So,” Thorin said, as our drinks were arriving, “Who did you vote for for town supervisor?”
“Hi, Thorin,” the waiter said.
“You know the waiter?” I said to Thorin.
“Who did you vote for for town supervisor?” the waiter asked me.
“Who did you vote for town supervisor?” I ask the waiter.
Meanwhile, Thorin is scheming to get some of the margarita.
“Hey, there,” I said. “Quit that! It’s too much for you.”
“We want the new fire station,” he said.
“So do I,” I said. “So I think we maybe voted for the same person.”
“It’s hard to vote here,” he said. “It’s like you don’t count in the town if your grandparents weren’t born here.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “My family moved here forty years ago and they still call my dad a newcomer.”
“Tell me about it,” Thorin said. “I moved here three months ago and they won’t let me vote even though I’m King under the Mountain.”
“Have a sip of the margarita and calm down, little guy,” the waiter said. “So I want to vote for some new blood on the town board,” he said, “but I also want a fire station.”
“Excuse me,” he said, and went to seat some new customers.
I did mention that Tuesdays are two-for-one margaritas, didn’t I?
And that the guys get a little crazy when they’ve had margaritas?
As we got to the bottom of the second margarita, I told Thorin he needed to be quiet.
“I want your sticker,” he said.
“OK,” I said. “If you really want it!”