Many Americans endured long lines to vote. Tim Robbins had to get a court order before he was allowed to cast his vote for president.
The 50-year-old actor's voting woes began Tuesday morning when he ran into trouble at his polling station: His name was missing from the registration rolls. He said his name was nowhere to be found on the books at a YMCA in downtown Manhattan, where he'd previously voted in presidential elections.
"I had been voting there for years," he said in a telephone interview. "I have not moved, I have not changed party affiliations. There's no reason why it shouldn't be in the rolls. So I was given a paper ballot and filled it out, but I wanted my vote to be registered there — and I don't trust paper ballots."
Robbins, who lives with partner Susan Sarandon and has been registered to vote in New York since 1988, said he doesn't trust paper or affidavit ballots because "oftentimes those things get lost or thrown away." So he did not submit his and asked to speak to a supervisor.
"I stayed in the voting place and asked to see someone from the Board of Elections and told them I wasn't going to leave until someone from the Board of Elections came and explained to me why I wasn't being allowed to vote — why my name had been taken off the voter rolls."
The supervisor said a police officer had been called over, he said, "at which point, I said to him, `Are you trying to intimidate me?'" The police at the location said he had "every right to be there," said Robbins, well-known as a liberal activist who even played a candidate running for the Senate in "Bob Roberts," a 1992 film he also wrote and directed.
Police said there was no police involvement.
After hours of waiting, Robbins said he was told to visit the board's downtown office, which confirmed what he knew to be true: He's a registered voter. A judge then issued a court order allowing him to vote — and that he did, at the same location where his trouble began.
It ended up taking five hours for Robbins to vote. While it's somewhat tongue-in-cheek to say that of course someone as outspoken as Robbins would be stricken wrongly off the voting rolls, it's something else he said that should give pause: according to Robbins, 30 others got the same message. How many of them would have the wherewithal or the free time to fight for their right to vote as Robbins did? How many others in other precincts experienced the same? Never underestimate the importance of that one vote.