This week, America attempts to pick its president. Citizens will march up to their polling places, stand in long lines, attempt to prove they are who they say they are, and pull the lever for some candidate or other. But instead of returning home to spend the evening with Tim Russert and a martini, many thousands of them will be forced to spend it in grueling postmortems with class-action lawyers, hashing and rehashing innumerable voting indignities and filing for emergency stays, injunctions, and tiresome motions for Orders to Show Cause. The question is, shouldn’t you be one of them?
Rumor has it that John Kerry has already mobilized tens of thousands of lawyers and several airplanes to fly around the country, filing lawsuits before every magistrate, traffic judge, and hall monitor in the country. The Bush campaign has every intention of responding in kind.
Slate finds itself deeply dismayed by this turn in events. Americans are an independent and resourceful folk. Why should the lawyers have all the fun? “Get out the vote” is so last millennium. We’re here to help “get out the plaintiffs.” To that end, we present herein a handy Slate litigation kit for all you do-it-yourselfer litigants out there, eager to cut out the middleman and file your own election-related lawsuit. We’ve organized all possible (and impossible) election-related legal claims below so that prospective plaintiffs need only check the appropriate boxes, fill in the relevant data, sign and date the handy affidavit, and timely file this pleading in the court of appropriate jurisdiction.
Wishing you the very best of luck on your own pro se adventure,
Section I: Voter Intimidation Claims
Were you or your loved ones harassed, harangued, humiliated, condescended to, or belittled by any election worker today? Was your name stricken from the rolls because it has a letter in common with a deceased felon? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you have been the victim of voter intimidation. Please fill in the appropriate blanks below:
A. I was told by a “Challenger” named _____________________ that I was ineligible to vote, and it made me feel (circle one) bad/ sad/ mad.
B. I herein swear and aver that I was the victim of harassment at my polling place because of my (check all appropriate boxes):
(i) Race ()(ii) Religion ()(iii) Sexual orientation ()(iv) Handicap or disability ()(v) The overwhelming aroma of patchouli clinging to my kaftan ()(vi) Refusal to leave my assault weapon in my vehicle while voting ()(vii) Name. Which really is Mary Poppins/Fred Flintstone/Ralph Nader (see copy of birth certificate attached herein as Exhibit A) ()(viii) Other ___________________________ ()
C. I was unable to cast a ballot, and, as a result, my right to “equal protection under the law” (see, i.e., Bush v. Gore)was violated. Or, in the alternative, I was unable/unwilling to vote thereafter because I was humiliated and embarrassed (see affidavit from treating emergency room clergyman, attached herein as Exhibit B) and am thus seeking punitive damages at this time, in the amount of $ ___________.
Section II: Voter Intimidation of Others
It is not necessary that you yourself be intimidated at your polling place to suffer an actionable harm. It is sufficient that you merely witnessed or overheard voter harassment while attempting to vote yourself. Forensic data reveals that a single traumatic experience with voting may lead to a lifetime of post-traumatic-stress-related voting-aversion behavior.
I was not myself the victim of voter intimidation, but I witnessed the following exchange at my polling place: ______________________.
At this juncture, I became too upset/traumatized to vote and/or the wait became too long, and/or I was hungry and had finished my last McGriddle an hour earlier. As a result, I was unable to cast a ballot, and as a result, my right to “equal protection under the law” was violated (see, i.e., Bush v. Gore),as was the principle of “one man, one vote” and “voting is fun.” I am thus seeking punitive damages at this time, in the amount of $ ___________.
Section III: Faulty Registration
Many voters will be turned away because of problems with their voter registration. Make sure you aren’t one of them! Improper identification, the requirement in some states that citizenship boxes be checked, a bizarre (now defunct) rule in Ohio that invalidated registrations on incorrect paper stock sent in by mail, and allegations that in Defiance County, Ohio, fictitious registration forms were submitted by a man who was paid with crack cocaine all suggest that voter fraud is running rampant.
I herein aver that it was not my fault that the guy who registered me got paid with crack. I don’t even like crack. I am, nevertheless, who I claim to be.
Section IV: Fun With the Provisional Ballot
Did you show up at the wrong precinct (most likely your old one) and attempt to vote? Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, if your name is not on the rolls, you are nevertheless entitled to fill out a provisional ballot, unless you live in one of the numerous states that has already litigated this issue and lost. In which case, move on to Section V, below. You should probably know either way that no one is likely to count your provisional ballot anyhow. So avoid the rush and file your claim now:
A. I received a provisional ballot because ______________________________.
B. I believe this ballot will not be counted because (check one);
(i) It was cast outside my proper precinct ()(ii) No poll worker completed any paperwork pursuant to the filing of my ballot ()(iii) I saw the poll worker run it through a shredder ()
C. As a consequence, I feel that I was denied the vote (Bush v. Gore) and seek monetary damages in the amount of $_____.
Section V: Machine Malfunctions
Did you attempt to vote at a machine that did not function correctly or to your liking? Are you alarmed by the fact that there is no paper record whatsoever of the vote you’ve just cast? Did the machine at which you voted register thereafter two cherries and a lemon, shortly before hemorrhaging forth a pocketful of nickels? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have been a victim of machine malfunction. Please fill in the appropriate spaces, below.
A. Type of voting machine used (check one):
(i) Punch card () (ii) Optiscan ()(iii) E-voting () (iv) Lever machine ()(v) Paper ballots ()(vi) Karl Rove met me at the door to my polling place, assured me that I had already cast my vote, thanked me kindly, and sent me home ()
B. My principal objection to this machine is that it was (check one):
(i) Clearly broken ()(ii) Not handicap-accessible ()(iii) Clearly turned off ()(iv) The chad was already pregnant when I got it, I swear ()(v) Clearly just an ATM with paper taped over the screen ()
C. I believe that my vote will not be properly counted as a result of the above machine malfunction and that I will have thus been disenfranchised in violation of the federal Constitution (Bush v. Gore, yadda yadda yadda).
D. Optional tort provision: I further believe that use of the above-enumerated machine led to permanent damage as a result of: (circle one) repetitive stress disorder / carpal tunnel syndrome / irritable bowel syndrome / machine fell on my leg; I seek punitive damages in the amount of $____________. John Edwards will be in contact with you shortly.
Section VI: Misc. Unenumerated Complaints
Circle all relevant complaints: My absentee ballot never arrived / my overseas ballot is too small / Ralph Nader is not on my ballot / I don’t understand my ballot initiatives / I am a felon but was only convicted because my lawyer slept through trial / this whole election uncertainty is making me anxious and depressed, and I thus seek redress in the amount of $ ___________.
Affidavits and Warrantees: I herein represent that I am the person I claim to be despite my lack of identification at this time.
Initial here ____