Politics & Policy

When Voting Is Probably Not Worth the Hassle

At a primary-election polling place in Wrightstown, Wis., in 2008. (John Gress/Reuters)
Reflections on the most time-consuming ballot I have ever cast in my life

It was a matter of national concern when Barbara Comstock lost her House race to Virginia state senator Jennifer Wexton. That Wexton is leaving behind an open seat is more a matter of local concern — if that. I hear about it only when my wife gets a mailer from a Democratic candidate.

Speaking of my nicer half, she has a six-hour window on Saturday in which she can report to any of four polling places and cast her vote for the Democratic nominee to replace Wexton. (They don’t require ID, and a recent winner of a Herndon Town Council election cuts in front of her in line.) But we Republicans have to report to a 5 p.m. Sunday “mass meeting.” As of Friday it isn’t even clear who all will be running.

There will also be a “voluntary registration fee of $25.00.” The wife informs me that it would look cheap not to pay, but that she’ll be canceling this out with an equivalent donation to Moms Demand Action. “They don’t want to take your guns. They just want reasonable restrictions!”

Anyway, I show up to the Fairfax Christian School, sign an oath to support the nominee and the principles of the party, show my driver’s license, get a red wristband indicating I’m allowed to vote, and notice that someone named Arash has people wearing his stickers all over the place. I get an information sheet from a guy who’s holding a stack of them but seems oddly reluctant to hand one over. It turns out that Mr. Ebrahimi supports the Second Amendment and the Constitution, opposes abortion and taxes, and hates tolls on state-funded highways, while “Liberal Joe May” is an anti-gun tax-hiker who’s trying to buy the nomination. A third candidate who was expected to run has dropped out.

With the others — there will be 72 attendees in all — I make my way to the meeting place and furiously start researching these people on my phone. Liberal Joe May has a bit of history around here that ended right about when I moved to the area: He’s a businessman, born in 1937, who represented this district in the state house as a Republican for two decades before getting tea-partied in 2013. Later that very year he took his first crack at the state senate . . . as an independent, siphoning off 10 percent of the vote in an election that Wexton won by 15 points. Gun-rights folks in particular seem to hate his guts, which would be a big problem for me, except for the fact that none of them seem able to state a specific complaint. (“Let me be clear. Joe May’s record on Gun Rights while in the House of Delegates was terrible. I mean really terrible. Like Democrat terrible.”)

Ebrahimi himself, literally a Young Republican, is a bearded-American like me and (in his own words) “the son of a legal, Persian immigrant” whose father “saw first-hand how government can be manipulated to violate its moral obligation to protect the individual and the Life, Liberty, and Property of its citizens.” I actually kind of like toll roads, but other than that his views are about up my alley.

Anyway, it’s a bit after 5 when the meeting finally starts. But just a few minutes of blah-blah-blahing later it stops again for a “recess” in which some committees will do something or other. And who calls my attention away from my phone to introduce himself but Liberal Joe May?

I’m taken a little off guard, but I ask the question on my mind: What on earth did you do to tick off the Second Amendment people? He assures me he owns guns himself and supports Virginia’s concealed-carry law but voted against allowing guns in bars and opposes Uzis for third-graders. Well, I already knew he was a bit of a squish.

At 5:40 we get started again. At 5:43 some idiot pulls the fire alarm, and we all sit there while they try to figure out how to stop it. A couple of minutes later the guy running things decides to go ahead and start reading the rules over the alarm just to get things moving, but soon enough the blaring goes quiet.

5:50: PLOT TWIST! A dude in a ponytail makes a motion, or whatever it’s called, to bar anyone who’s previously run against a Republican candidate from getting the nomination. After some insufferable Robert’s Rules back-and-forth about how one would go about adding a condition to this suggestion (“within the past ten years”) after it has been stated, it unceremoniously loses a voice vote. At 5:54 a small child has had about enough of this and starts crying. Three minutes later, on to another godforsaken recess, and a young guy gives a talk about how important transportation issues will be to winning in this area.

At last we get to the candidates. Each gets a one-minute introduction from a friend plus three minutes to talk. At 6:14, an hour and a quarter into the meeting, all four speakers have been cut off so they don’t take up more than eight minutes of our Sunday night.

At this recess it’s Ebrahimi who introduces himself. Same question: What are these votes May cast against gun rights? He doesn’t have that information at the moment, but he reiterates that people on his team did find those votes.

At last, time to vote ourselves. We’ll be literally standing up to be counted. We’re warned that we can vote only once and shouldn’t stand up for both of the candidates. “This isn’t a Democratic primary,” someone jokes. Indeed it’s not.

Moment of truth: Do I go with the RINO career politician who probably has a better shot at the general election? Or do I inject some young blood into the process and give this new, more conservative option a shot?

We vote, and I’m briefly excited. It’s really close. Could I have just decided an election? Another recess.

Nah, May wins 36–33. (Apparently three people of the 72 left.) We all file out, a team of firefighters moves in, and I head on to Walmart to return a defective toilet seat.

Come to think of it, though, no one ever hit me up for that $25. So Shannon Watts will not be receiving a check from the VerBruggen household.

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