Night Voting

In my dream I am a member of a political campaign staff, working for a candidate in a county-wide election.

Our man is the best candidate. We believe this because we are partisans, but somehow we also know it to be true. But the primary was held recently, and he didn’t get enough votes to avoid a runoff. As we prepare for the runoff, government data regarding the exact vote count by precinct falls into our hands. We are not supposed to have this information. In my dream world, it is legal to know the vote totals, but this kind of granular tally is a crime for a campaign to possess.

Our team is aware of this, but we ignore it and begin to analyze the data. Gradually it becomes clear that there is one town in the north that has voted unanimously — one hundred percent — for our opponent, and it is because of this anomaly that we are in a runoff. If this town had split the way the rest of the precincts in the county did, we would have won the election in the primary.

We have a meeting about this, and here is what we decide:Â Our candidate is an eminently qualified black man, and his opponent is a white buffoon with little to recommend him. The voters in this town, then, are all racists who would rather be governed by a nincompoop than a black man. It’s the only explanation that makes sense to us.

So we focus our campaign on this one town, working day and night, knocking on doors, putting out press releases, holding meet-and-greets at local coffee shops, buying radio spots, all making the point that our candidate is smarter, more experienced and more purely motivated than our opponent. If we can turn this town around, even a little, we will win.

On the eve of the general, after a meeting at the home of a citizen, I am approached by a couple of the locals who tell me they are excited about the upcoming election and looking forward to voting for my candidate again. I thank them earnestly for their support before starting back to headquarters.

It’s late at night and the election is tomorrow. I’ve done all I can, haven’t I? But what is it that’s bothering me? There is something wrong. I’m alone in the car on a two-lane country blacktop, slicing the night between fields of corn, going back over everything again.

And there it is: Again. Those two people want to vote for my guy again. They voted for him before, in the primary, and now they want to vote for him again. But the election tally showed one hundred percent of them voted against my man. We had assumed it was a racial thing

My foot has slipped off the accelerator and I am coasting to a stop, pounding on the steering wheel over and over. The primary vote totals for this town had to have been rigged, and we — I — hadn’t even considered the possibility, hadn’t done anything to expose the crime, and now it was too late, and we were going to lose again, this time for real!

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