This morning’s paper gave me another reason to reflect on my regret that I haven’t left this miserable state years ago. On page four was a full color photo of one of my high school classmates, arms spread and with a big grin on her face under the lights of Times Square. The story was about Tampa natives who’ve transplanted themselves to The Big Apple and haven’t been scared off by little things like collapsing skyscrapers. Apparently, she moved there in 1997 and works in a bank. I’m glad she’s happy; she was always a nice person.

Today was primary election day in Florida, so I did my civic duty and voted on my way to my Research Methods class. My precinct, as it has for the last several elections, votes in a church, which in and of itself doesn’t bother me. It wasn’t so bad today, but during general elections, the side of the road in front of the church is packed with partisan campaign signs, all for candidates of a single party. This is probably legal, but there shouldn’t be such a blatant display of partisanship in front of what should be a neutral polling place. It infuriates me so much that I daydream of driving my car over those signs and hearing them go down under the wheels with a satisfying sound. Thwack thwack thwack thwack thwack thwack thwack thwack.

Most voters had their first exposure to the touch screen voting booths today. I know that this is a badly-needed improvement over existing technology, but I can’t help but feel a Nicholson Baker-like twinge of nostalgia over the loss of the punch card ballots. There was something tangibly fulfilling (and maybe sexual?) about sticking that metal pin in the hole and hearing the satisfying crunch of the ballot and feeling the chad give way. And I have worries, probably unfounded, about the accuracy of and potential for tampering with votes that exist only as intangible computer records. Nothing to touch, to count, to verify. Democrats don’t trust machines, I guess. All of that aside, I wholeheartedly applaud this necessary upgrade. Yet in the state voting was extended two hours to 9pm because some people had problems with the new technology. Perhaps some elderly Jews tried to vote for Pat Buchanan again.

I skipped voting for judges and school board members because I was so utterly uniformed, and I wasn’t about to vote for random names or make choices out of some misguided sense of ethnic solidarity. Mary Barley was my choice for Agricultural Commissioner, a race I normally wouldn’t care about if she wasn’t a big target of a series of particularly nasty attack ads. A group called “Florida’s Working Families” accused her of being a Republican in Democratic clothing, donating money to Dubya, attacking Democratic Senator Bob Graham, and being an all around nasty bitch. But it turns out that Florida’s Working Families is a front group for Repubican big-ticket donors! Political ads are always nasty, but the ones from this election and from that party are particularly onerous, and they make me want to tell everyone I know to vote for Mary Barley.

Bill McBride and Janet Reno, both running to be the Democratic candidate for Governor, are also the targets of particularly nasty Republican ads. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Reno. There are many things I admire about her, but I disagree with her about many things. The clincher is that she has no chance of winning against Jeb! in a state where much of the population is still bitter about Elian Gonzalez, hates her because her boss got a hummer, or thinks she is a lesbian. Bill McBride seems like a nice enough guy for a corporate laywer, and as the Weekly Planet said, it takes a rich white guy to beat a rich white guy. Here’s hoping that’s true.

Has it been a year already? Raise a glass and pour one out for those we’ve lost. And don’t forget to remember the ones who are still here in case they join that list before you expect them to.