August 3rd, 2006

Voted for Dean

Local reminders: Sales Tax "Holiday," 2006 Primary Election

Sales Tax Holiday: I've hardly seen any mention of it, but this coming weekend, the 4th through the 6th, is the state of Missouri's back-to-school "sales tax holiday," where the state waives their portion of the sales tax on virtually anything that can pass for a back-to-school item: clothing up to $100 per item, almost any stationery supplies, computers up to $3500, and so on. On the other hand, it may be that the reason I'm seeing so little about it is that this year, it may not amount to much. A big chunk of the sales tax (depending on where you live) is local city or county tax, and this year an unprecedentedly long list of cities and counties declined to participate, including the areas containing virtually every mall and shopping strip in St. Louis county. I'm kind of disappointed in that. Oh, well. I may go fall-wardrobe clothes shopping some time this weekend anyway, some savings is better than none. For everything else, if you want to save on the sales tax there's always the Internet.

Primary Election, Tuesday, August 8th: Next Tuesday is the primary election here in Missouri, the election that determines which candidates will be on the November ballot. There are also, as with every election, the usual long list of ballot issues, mostly related to taxes for things like schools and fire departments and so on. As for the primary itself, there really aren't very many contested races, only one or two of them are going to be at all competitive. There is one to watch: once again, Deaniac candidate Jeff Smith is tilting at the city party apparatus, going up against the Clay apparatus candidate in the Missouri senate 4th district; I predict he'll be hammered again, more's the pity. So far as I can tell, that may be the only close race. For St. Louis City and St. Louis County, the Post-Dispatch has their Voter's Guide up on their web page which lists all the candidates, plus their responses (if any) to a simple questionaire the Post sent out.

That's the good thing, because voting and vote counting this Tuesday may not go especially well. You see, this Tuesday is the big county-wide roll-out of the new voting machines. (Not Diebold, thank Prime.) The old Votomatic punch-card voting machines are gone now; we get new computerized voting machines. No more possibility of dimpled, hanging, or swinging chads; no votes miscast because the ballot didn't line up properly in the machine, no paper ballots to be stolen from the boxes or stuffed. No, we get the new, 21st century cyberpunk voting worries: crashed machines, computer-illiterate election judges, and the near-elimination of any way to recount the votes. At least, thank Prime, they did insist that the touch-screen machines have a paper trail of sorts, and you do get to check your paper trail before you leave the voting booth. The County Elections Board sent out brochures with the instructions a week or so ago, and if you haven't seen them you absolutely should see the matching website, vote.stlouisco.com.

I have no idea what the procedure will be like. The old system for verifying that you're a registered voter and making sure you get assigned the right ballot was designed around the Votomatic machines, so I won't find out what the step-by-step process for getting from the door to the voting machine will be like until the actual day. Hopefully, the election judges will found out, themselves, before then. But even assuming they do get trained, nobody will have any experience, so expect screw-ups and expect things to go slow. Worse, these'll be one time procedures, because the real nightmare comes in November.

You do not have to have a photo ID to vote this time, but you will in November. The damned Republicans are so sure that Democrats are stuffing ballot boxes by running the same voters through multiple times under fake IDs that they cooked up a lovely new scheme. They could have done what every other country in the world has done when facing that worry, namely marked voters thumbs with durable dye or some such thing. That would have actually worked, and been free or nearly free for everybody. But no, we have to go complicated. Now you have to have either an up-to-date state driver's license or an up-to-date state non-driver photo ID.

Assuming you don't have a passport (and how many poor people do?), either one requires that you go to your local county seat and spend a couple of hours in line to get a fresh, certified copy of your birth certificate ($15, here in St. Louis County), then bring it plus two other very specific forms of identification (more or less the same ones you needed before to vote) to a motor vehicle bureau "fee office" and stand in line for another hour or two (probably) to get your ID (fee supposedly waived for non-drivers if you tell them that you only need it to vote with, but we'll see how that works). Counting the bus ride down to Clayton and back, I figure that'll tie up an entire day for me, and I'm able-bodied enough to get down there. Bless our corrupt little Republican-controlled state, they're only allowing the election officials to travel to nursing homes and other in-patient facilities to help people get IDs. Stuck at home, getting by with help from a home health care nurse and planning on getting Paraquad or your local political party office to help you vote in November? Tough; you're stuck out-of-pocket for whatever it's going to cost to get you transported downtown or to Clayton or wherever, then to the license office. Since the Republicans sincerely believe that they're facing a 60+ year old nation-wide crisis of Mafia/Democratic ballot box stuffing, you'll just have to sacrifice. Republicans are really big on sacrifice -- sacrificing the less fortunate, that is.

So yeah, complicated and never used before new procedures for both of the next two elections, each one opening up whole new vistas of opportunity for voter intimidation and whole new ways for Republicans to cheat people out of voting, all to solve a problem that basically got solved a couple of decades ago but they don't believe it. The whole thing just basically ticks me off.

Either they're expecting an unusually large turnout or they really, really want to test the procedures before November. I got my postcard from the election board telling me where my polling place will be this time. Normally, for non-November elections like special elections and primaries, I have to walk a couple of blocks further because they open fewer polling places, but no, this time they seem to be using them all.