Saturday, October 30, 2004

Voting (1)

The early-voting sites around here are drawing large crowds. I went to vote on Tuesday and had to wait 40 minutes in a line that snaked out the door and around the corner of the building. It was a beautiful clear day, fortunately.

The woman in front of me in line was lively and chatty, and we got an earful of her political views. “I’m sick of Bush AND Kerry. I wish I could vote for None Of The Above. Let’s see how we would do with no president for awhile.” The government just needs to get out of the way and let individuals fulfill their potential, which is unlimited in our free society. Another woman in line disagreed gently, bringing up discrimination against women. She recalled a job where male co-workers used to grope and grab her. Our heroine Woman #1 nodded, she too had been grabbed by men on the job. The solution there was simply to say No to these men firmly. Then she tied together the strands of the discussion thusly: “That was one good thing about Clinton. He was so busy messing around with his girlfriends, he didn’t have any time left over to meddle with the economy or anything.”

By this time I was biting my tongue so hard I liked to draw blood. (Bill Clinton didn’t take time to tinker under the hood of public policy??!?!) But there this woman was, with her cockeyed and extremely cynical views of the politicians, lined up to cast her vote a week early. I came to find out she needed to vote early because on Election Day she would be serving as a poll worker. She’d had to get trained—sure, she would get paid, but she had devoted quite a bit of time. Elections couldn’t be held without people like her.

I find the ritual of voting to be enjoyable and renewing: giving my name to the senior citizen keeping the list, receiving my ballot, filling it out. We have the paper ballots where you fill in the broken arrow, then feed the ballot into a scanner when you’re done. I enjoy the gauntlet of signs and poll greeters you pass through on the sidewalk outside the polling place. I like to give a wink to the Democratic greeter out there. I enjoy getting the “I Voted” sticker as I leave. If election boards shift more toward voting by mail or online, and surely they will, I will mourn the lost ritual of going down to one’s voting precinct.

Call me crazy—a little part of me also appreciates standing in line at the post office or the DMV. Those inconvenient cattle calls are rites of citizenship, I say. People of every creed, color, and background have to show up and be hassled.

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