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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Voting and the perpetuation of error

Voting, Wauwatosa, Election to Recall Scott Walker, Cranky Al's, Rocket Baby, Error

When a friend mentioned she'd voted early in the election to recall Scott Walker, I decided to follow in her  footsteps. So Friday I climbed the stairs to the Wauwatosa City Clerk's office, got my ballot and envelope, and completed the line to connect the arrow pointing to my choices.

Which I'm pretty sure were not the choices of the other woman dropping off her absentee ballot while I was there.

But that's what democracy is all about: different people with different ideas expressing their hopes and desires. When it works, the people we vote for find a way that most of us are able to buy into. When it doesn't. . . well, we get where we are now. And we stand across the room, eyeing people who are very much like us with suspicion, distrusting their intelligence and decency.

I asked the woman at the counter how many had voted early: "Oh, hundreds!" she exclaimed. People care a lot about this election.

And then she asked me the question I'd thought was answered earlier. "Do you spell your name with a space between the Mc and the Laughlin? Because you're one of only two people on our whole list who does. And we need our list to use the same spelling as your driver's license."

Should I pound my head on the counter? "No space," I said. "I thought this problem had been fixed."

In a way, it had. Everyone was aware of the issue and willing to use a little latitude in interpretation.

That the problem continues and no one can or cares to fix it is the bigger problem. Whatever side of the electorate you're on, I bet you're frustrated by how much seems intractably broken.

Whoever makes the voting rules has decreed that the Department of Motor Vehicles is the final word in how people spell their names. And the DMV likes to put spaces between Mcs and Macs and O's and whatever comes next. The state legislature says all documentation must be exactly the same. And the city clerks do their best to follow through.

It doesn't matter that about 90% of us McSomethings and O'Somethings don't have a space. The DMV's habit or software or both and everyone else's falling in line are forcing us to change our identities because it's easier to go along. The simplest fix might be to program the software to recognize this condition of space or no space in the middle of a name as the same.

There's an old story about a woman who always cut off the end of her roast before she cooked it. Her husband asked why, and she said "That's how my mom does it." But later, she asked her mom why she cut off the end of the roast. Mom pulled out her pan, which was old and smaller than the pans now made. "Because it doesn't fit unless I do."

I'm glad when we take the opportunity to make things right. Especially when they are needlessly wrong.

You have a few more days to vote early, too. But not often. And afterward, you might reward yourself as I did, with a fine chocolate croissant from Rocket Baby or a cruller from Cranky Al's.

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