Scandinavian M.P.s in an East Side Voting Booth

Like David Paterson, I did not vote alone.

Here I am inside a voting booth on 51st Street on the East Side of Manhattan, with members of parliament from three different countries. From left to right, they are Michael Jensen, 32, of Denmark; Kund Kristiansen, 37, of Greenland; and Bill Justinussen, 45, of the Faroe Islands, which, to his chagrin, are still part of Denmark (“We need to be independent of them but they won’t let us!”).

The group said they were here to study how Americans conduct elections. They'd been at the voting station for a few hours, and spoke to a number of voters. "They all said they want change," said Jensen. "Even the people who said they were voting for McCain."

Jensen said the talk about a “record turnout” in America is sort of funny. Kristiansen and Justinssen nodded in agreement. “It’s pretty low compared to our turnout, which is about 80 percent of all voters.” He also said the “whole process” of pulling different levers to vote for each person on the ballot is “pretty complex. At home [in Denmark], you have a paper, and an ‘X’ and that’s it.”

It was pretty simple (by American standards) to vote at my polling station. I got there around 12:30 p.m., and there was a line ten people deep that moved quickly. No signs for Obama or McCain anywhere in sight. The only complaint came from a woman walking out as I was coming in, who said, “They shouldn’t let old people do it. That’s why we have lines.”

Justinussen said it was the first polling station they’d visited. Next stop: Harlem.