Friday, November 14, 2008

Better Late than Never—More Thoughts from Inside the Polls

Election Day was a long one, though not as long as it could have been. We arrived at the usual 5:00 a.m., and had the polls ready for the more than 50 people in line when we opened at 6:00. We had already been somewhat angrily accused by the Republican workers outside of not opening the polls on time. It seems that although these good folks had set their home clocks back an hour for the end of daylight savings time the weekend before, they had neglected to change their wristwatches. We had long (for us) lines from opening until close to 7:30, a short line in the lunchtime range, and another short line once in the late afternoon. Otherwise, we had a fairly steady trickle of voters, finishing the day with 1,056 folks having voted in person. Another 140 from our precinct cast absentee ballots, making for an 82 percent turnout.

I know this sounds somewhat hokey, but I still get tingly when we stand there in the gym at 5:30 or so, after having put up most of the signs, raise our right hands, and take our oath of office for the day. We, just plain people, are about to put on an election. This is still a big deal to me and if it ever isn’t, that’s probably the time I shouldn’t be doing it any longer.

What will stick with me from this year’s election apart from the obvious historical mark of having elected the nation’s first president of color? As usual, we had some people voting for the first time. Several of them were well beyond 18 years; one may have been a half-century beyond. One voter well past his own half century said it was only the second time he had voted in his life. If these new voters had a sample ballot in their hands, it was typically the Democrats’ blue one as opposed to the orange one issued by the Republicans, in line with the pundits’ observations that the Democrats were particularly effective in getting first-timers out to vote. I congratulated all the first-time voters, which made some of the teenagers giggle.

On the sentimental side, there was the couple who appeared to be in their 70s, and probably late 70s at that, who checked in at the pollbook table and then approached the two voting machines, holding hands, and obviously for love rather than physical assistance. That little gesture transmitted so much affection it’s still making me smile.

And on the LOL humorous side, there was the voter who asked for assistance in reading the names on the ballot because she’d just had an ophthalmologic procedure done and couldn’t see the names clearly enough to tell which was which. She couldn’t read the blurred ballot, yet she said she had just driven herself to the school to vote. Sometimes it’s a good thing to be locked in the polls all day and not out on the roads.

Largely because there were only three races on the ballot and we had a record crew of 11 people (as opposed to our usual six or seven), we left for home, paperwork complete, gym and hallway restored to their pre-election states, at 8:00, just an hour after the polls closed. The paycheck should arrive next week; normally I spend it on an indulgence such as the short metal sword I bought using the proceeds from the winter primary. This election’s bounty gets saved for the spring adventure. The next election is the state-level Democrat primary scheduled for June 9; that will be a much slower, seemingly longer day than we had last week, but no less important in the big picture.

1 comment:

Debi said...

Any idea just how much of a "feel good" post this is?!! I'm just left me feeling proud of our country, and extremely grateful for all the people who work so hard to keep it great! Thank you...for your post, and for your hard work every election day!