Matthew Hein

Pardon me while I get my geek on. These are desperate times, however, and geeky measures are called for. Geeky measures, in fact, may be our only hope of navigating this particularly complex round of vote-by-mail elections.

If you have happened to glance at the voter’s pamphlet over the last week, you already know that November’s elections would be pretty daunting if they were a timed, closed-book, short-answer test counting for 60 percent of the grade.

Fortunately, this is a take-home test, untimed and open-book. The use of notes is encouraged. It’s a multiple-choice test, not an essay test, and cheating is allowed.

So, what do I do when faced with a quiz like this? I assemble people I trust and I ask them for the answers. I start out kind of sneaky-like, then slowly wind my way around to the issue at hand.

“Hey, I haven’t seen you for too long. I know, school is crazy; it’s important that we keep in touch throughout the term, instead of just trying to catch up over winter break. Hey, what are you doing Sunday night? I was thinking of making a little dinner or something for a couple of friends.”

The bait is on the hook. The trap is set. It’s time to segue toward my grand design.

“Speaking of being busy, I got my ballot in the mail last week, and I haven’t even opened the voter’s pamphlet. It’s terrible; I’ve really got to get on that. Do you know anything about any of those ballot measures? It seems like there must be a dozen of them or something.”

The subject has been broached. Success is so close I can smell it through the little holes at the top end of my cordless phone.

“Yeah, so you haven’t done yours yet either? Tell me about it. We’re terrible citizens. My grandparents must be rolling over in their graves. So, hey, I’ve got an idea: How about you bring over your ballot on Sunday night and we’ll knock that thing out together? Sure, we could help each other out and stuff.”

I believe that this is what salespeople call “closing the deal.”

“Okay then, five o’clock sounds great. Don’t worry about dinner. I’ll make something simple. It’ll be fine, just bring a bottle of wine and some number two pencils. I can’t wait to see you!”

All I have to do now is repeat this process three or four more times. Come Sunday night, I’ll have assembled an all-star study group and enough wine to get all the way through what I have heard referred to as “the democratic process.”

It’s absolutely necessary that I clear off every flat surface in the apartment before my guests arrive, because each may come armed with his or her own research materials. The end result of these studious habits can be a floor littered with copies of every local periodical, assorted pieces of campaign junk mail, broken pencils and spilled cabernet-merlot blends.

As a host, I tend to consider it my gentlemanly duty to provide stamps, as well as spaghetti. That’s just the kind of a class act I am. What can I say? Color me classy.

The nice thing about an election dinner party is that, unlike Thanksgiving with the in-laws, the more arguing there is, the more fun the evening gets. In a family dinner, some people hold their tongues, then drive home feeling as though they were right all along.

At the conclusion of the election feast, the person who knows in his heart that he – and only he – knows the right answer, can silently smirk while filling in the bubbles on his ballot. Every person gets to express him or herself, and the phrase “agree to disagree” actually seems to have some reasonable meaning.

Elections like the one rapidly approaching can be a royal pain. There’s so much studying to do and little to no hope of receiving a passing grade at the end of it all. There isn’t even the hope of winning a fun-filled vacation for two or a lifetime supply of green M&Ms.

On the other hand, there aren’t many better ways to feel good about putting off schoolwork. Procrastination has never felt so fulfilling.

And, of course, there’s the undeniable fact that this will be a multiple-choice, open-book, take-home test. No standing in line to buy a blue book or a scantron! Cheat all you want! Watch your friends yell at each other over legislative minutiae!

An election-themed dinner party? Just call me King of the Geeks.