This proves I was a good citizen and cast my ballot in California's presidential primary this week. It also could have gotten me a discount at the local bathhouse. Apparently, the Vulcan Steam and Spa here in San Diego was offering an election day special -- a free locker for anyone who came in with an "I voted" sticker. Californians don't hold back when it comes to encouraging people to vote.
Like more than four million others here, I get my ballot in the mail. But I just couldn't resist being part of the election day excitement, so I held on to mine and delivered it in person at my assigned polling place inside this Evangelical Presbyterian church located two blocks from my apartment.
Helpful signs like this one in English, Spanish, Tagalog (Filipino) and Vietnamese reveal something about local neighborhoods.
In Louisiana, polling places are restricted to public buildings like community centers and schools, but in California people cast ballots in churches, private residential garages, businesses and other unusual locations.
OOOPS!: My buddy John in Baton Rouge pointed out that my recollection of Louisiana voting habits isn't quite right. John reports that plenty of people in the Bayou State vote in churches and private homes. Perhaps my perspective was skewed by spending my last 15 years there voting in New Orleans where those sorts of polling places were certainly out of the ordinary. Thanks John for the correction.
There's a polling place in Ocean Beach that's inside a pizzeria, and a work colleague of mine votes at a rehab center. She walked into a room at the center on Tuesday expecting to find voting machines but instead stumbled upon an AA meeting. She said the teetotalers didn't seem put off by her error and happily directed her to the right location.
They make voting easy here. Weeks before an election, booklets arrive in the mail spelling out every item on the ballot in great detail and offering an explanation of each voting option. Voting outside of your registered party is sometimes an option. And if your name doesn't appear on voter rolls for some reason, they let you cast a provisional ballot that gets counted once election officials confirm you're properly registered.
Of course, while the rest of us were fixated on the primaries, all of my peeps in Louisiana were celebrating Mardi Gras. The unusual confluence of Fat Tuesday and Super Tuesday forced the Bayou State to postpone its presidential primary until this weekend.
I forgot to mail-order a king cake from New Orleans in time for delivery on Mardi Gras, but I was able to buy this surprisingly authentic and tasty version of the Carnival delicacy from Mardi Gras Cafe and Marketplace in the Point Loma area of San Diego. The cakes are specially made for the store each year by a local baker.
This one was a big hit at the office.