Early Florida-Voting Fun: Crying 'Fire' in a Voting Place

Yesterday was the start of legalized “Early Voting” in Florida, so Pat and I participated dutifully by going to nearby Coral Reef Library. Although a little old lady barely able to see over her steering wheel nonchalantly whizzed by us in order to jump ahead of 20 other drivers lined up to use the parking lot, the crowd was well behaved–except for one grossly fat John Kerry supporter inside the polling place.

She was so huge that she required a cane with a platform in order to waddle about the waiting mass of voters in the library lobby. The Kerryite wore a tentlike, XXX-Large white T-shirt with bold-block red type on both her back and her heaving, Himalayan-Mountain-size front proclaiming: “DESTROY BUSH!” Of all 150 or so Democrat, Republican and Independent voters in the waiting area, she was the only one violating the spirit of Florida’s law that prohibits in-your-face electioneering inside or too near a polling place.

I quietly motioned-over a badge-wearing election clerk and asked him in a soft voice (difficult for me to do) why he was tolerating such officious partisan behavior. “We can’t tell someone how to dress,” he said with a shrug, “but if she attempts to hang around after she votes, we can tell her to leave.”

“OK,” I responded, “but in the meantime, can’t you make her sit down and stop parading around the room like a walrus in heat?”

At that point a diminutive woman next to me, about the size of the Kerry supporter’s left breast, raised her voice to lecture me: “She has the right of free speech, mister, the First Amendment!”

The civics-lesson fun had begun. The nodding crowd of voters came to life. “The First Amendment,” I shot back, “is not absolute. It does not allow you to defame others, cry fire in a crowded theater, broadcast military secrets in wartime, or pour rhetorical gasoline in a precinct polling place. You liberals are either ignorant about the Bill of Rights or you’re purposely lying about them.”

“How do you know I’m a liberal?” she yelled.

“Because you act like one,” I answered.

“Go to hell,” she ordered.

“Why,” I responded, “would I want to visit your neighborhood?”

Thank God that I didn’t wait until Nov. 2 to vote. It might be really heated in Florida by then . . .