I was reading this Nick K. column, which was just about the most Robert Z. Nemeth-y thing I’ve read this month, and I suddenly felt the need to make a confession to my readers.
It’s something I never thought I had to confess, because it was something I never thought was wrong. But now I realize that I committed an act in the past decade that has put me in opposition to all the values that make this country great.
Dear reader, I fear that this will completely change your opinion of me, but I can’t hold back any longer.
I helped someone vote.
The person was my grandmother.
The year was 2002.
I helped her vote at City Hall, before Election Day.
My grandmother, like many other non-native-English-speaking naturalized citizens, is fluent in spoken English but not in written English. While she was well aware of the issues and the candidates, it was helpful for her to have someone to refresh her memory and to read items out for her.
I recall that the person who handed us the ballot came over at one point to yell at me because she thought I was coaching my grandmother to vote in a particular way. (It was about this question. Because of a previous conversation, I knew how my grandmother was going to vote, and I knew that I’d be voting exactly the opposite way when a ballot came my way.)
I’ve read a little bit (well, as much as I could stomach, which isn’t much) about the alleged voter fraud. I don’t have an opinion on whether it happened, and I don’t have an opinion on Neighbor to Neighbor.
I don’t think it’s suspicious that Spanish speaking people might need help even though there are ballots printed in Spanish. I assume that at least some Spanish speakers don’t have a fluency in their written language, as is the case with some English speakers.
I don’t find it suspicious that some people can’t provide a home address or list 701 Main Street as their home address. I assume that there are at least some people in this city who are homeless.
I think we’re dealing with a larger issue than whether N2N did anything wrong, or whether lobbying groups should have volunteers joining voters in voting booths. It’s an issue that’s not new, and one that I’m not sure will ever go away: how can our society encourage and honor an educated electorate? How do we make people so passionate about the ballot in their hand that having someone else fill out that piece of paper doesn’t even cross their minds?
Imagine how different things would be if those who spent all their time raising a fuss about supposed voting improprieties after elections actually spent as much time educating voters on the issues before elections.