I Voted . . . Blindly

If you hold on until the end of the post, you'll see that it's got science content. But you'll have to wait until the end.

First, here's how it starts. I had an optometrist appointment at 8am this morning. I could have voted prior to the appointment, but the polling place is in between the optometrist's office and work, so I figured I'd vote after getting my eyes checked. Big mistake. The eye doctor dilated my pupils, which, much to my surprise, made me far-sighted (I'd never had both pupils dilated simultaneously before). I did not realize this until, when checking out of the office, I could not read the credit card receipt I signed. I thought, "Fuck, how the hell am I gonna vote if I can't read the ballot?"

An aside: the doctor had a picture of his daughter posing next to Dick Cheney with her violin. Doc said something about her being a musician, so I imagine she won some competition that earned her a trip to the White House.

So, I ride my bike to the polling place (don't worry, the pupil dilation didn't affect my distance vision). Thankfully, there was a short line. When I checked in, I asked the retired people how small the writing on the ballot is. They pointed me to a sample ballot across the room. I could not read it. Ever resourceful, I asked if anyone had reading glasses. I figured one of the five retirees staffing the place would be able to lend me a pair. They did not. Luckily, a nice lady waiting in line to vote let me borrow her specs, which, while not perfect, allowed me figure out which line on the ballot corresponded to each party.


Next issue: figuring out my county's neolithic voting contraption. I walked into the booth, where I encountered a large red lever and a "ballot". I'm not sure if there were instructions inside the booth because I couldn't read much of anything. "What am I supposed to do?" I asked. No response. "What am I supposed to do?" Still no response. The one armed lady in charge of operating the voting contraption did not think that it was her obligation to tell me how to operate my side of the device. I'm pretty sure it was. The retired people let me down again. Finally, she told me that I should pull the red lever, which would close the curtain. After that, I was supposed to tick off my choice on the "ballot". I put ballot in scare quotes because it was intimidating. The so-called ballot was a large sheet of paper in a grid, with the columns indicating the offices I'd be voting for, and the rows labeled with the party names. I could only make out the party names and the offices I was voting for; the rest of the "ballot" was a blur, literally. I voted by flipping a black switch in the square on the grid representing the candidate I supported for that office. Finally, I was able to escape the booth by flipping the red lever back to its starting position.

I could barely read the ballot, but I think I voted this morning. I blame this ordeal on my optometrist, who is obviously a Republican operative trying to suppress the vote of all those socialists in a small college town. How else would you explain the the photo of Dick Cheney?

Now for the science content: How does pupil dilation work? Is tropicamide the primary drug used? How does it target just the nerves involved in controlling the pupil? And why does dilating your pupils make you far-sighted?

More like this

This morning, I walked into my local polling place, signed in, and voted. There were fewer than ten items on the ballot, and it only took a few minutes. I had to wait a moment for one of the booths to open up, but there was no one in line ahead of me. If people aren't voting at 8am before work,…
The Days When Democracy In America Was Bogus First, three stories. One comes from other sources, not verified, but everyone at the time (it is said) knew it to be true. Political operatives in the Boston area used to visit the train yards during the days and hours before a local mayoral election…
This story should, if you care at all about the rule of law, make your blood boil: I, Galloglas, went to vote today and encountered difficuly. And, it is important to point out that this was not the first time I've run onto problems this year. When I voted in Missouri's Presidential primary in…
Nothing says more about the routinely nasty depths American politics than this story. In Houston, the city health department got money from the Robert Wood Johnson and Amerigroup Foundations, two charities much involved in health care, to provide free flu shots near polling places in medically…

I don't know specifics about the pharmacology of tropicamide, but for pupillary dilation to occur, parasympathetic input to the sphincter pupillae muscle should be antagonized (the dilator pupillae muscle receives sympathetic innervation). The ciliary muscle that controls the shape of the lens also receives parasympathetic innervation. In the absence or pharmacological blockage of such, the ciliary muscle will be relaxed, tension on the zonular fibers of the lens increased, and the lens will flatten out for distance vision. Near vision, which requires a rounded lens, is impaired in the absence of parasympathetic innervation.


By Voting Booth (not verified) on 05 Nov 2008 #permalink

My father told of being an election judge (in the 1920's?), and helping people vote who had 'left their glasses at home'. These were people who were, in fact, illiterate and should not have been able to vote. So much for trifling legalities.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 06 Nov 2008 #permalink

Yet another reason to get an absentee ballot. I started doing this a few years ago and it has made life much nicer. Now I can vote in any condition I want and nobody needs to know ...