Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Confessions of a Voting Vigilante

Is early voting the new fad? I have to do it because I work a polling place other than my own, but if I could, I’d always vote in my home precinct. I’d get to see neighbors, get a feel for turnout, pick up election energy.

So imagine my surprise when I showed up at the Division of Elections to vote early … and the line was out the door! We all waited 15 minutes or more, way more than anyone would ever have to wait in their home precinct. So why was everyone out voting early? I asked. Some people don’t know if they’ll be out of town, some have an irregular work schedule, some won’t be near home.

But there we all were on a Monday afternoon with time to kill. Only one woman had brought a book.

While we waited, a Division employee kept coming out, telling everyone to keep the doors to the foyer clear, that if there weren’t room, they’d have to wait outdoors. Then she’d walk to another area, leaving the doors unguarded. New people would arrive and try to squeeze into the foyer, blocking the doors. This actually messed up the people trying to exit so some control was needed.
Fortunately, the woman in front of me was a born class monitor. She jumped right in, defeating chaos, reminding everyone where to stand. I could tell a kindred spirit; I congratulated her for her civic mindedness because I know she embarrasses her kids, too. Hey, effective line control is an important societal function, and we all self-identified as good citizens (or we wouldn’t be lining up to vote).

People on line to vote on a Monday afternoon are in remarkable good cheer. It’s a very friendly, happy line of good citizens.

But this is what you do on an election line: you try to guess how people are going to vote. You consider every stereotype you may hold and you wonder whom they’re voting for.

I could guess how the woman with the purple and blue neon streaks in her hair might vote, but how about the woman with perfectly coifed hair and professionally-applied makeup? This is Alaska; women don’t show up at gala events that well turned out, so she was definitely in a class by herself. It was a Monday afternoon; where could she be going? And how would she vote?
What about the older man who kept his glasses propped on his forehead? How do “older white males” vote? Could I guess? And what about the man behind him, the dark-skinned man with a crew cut; how would he vote? Guys in baseball caps; how do they vote? And what about ALL THESE WOMEN?
So I wondered, in an election year marked by horrendous rudeness and incivility, would everyone be as happy and congenial if we knew how everyone was going to vote?

Me, I’m a voting vigilante. I say things like, “I think we should all get our thumbs dyed purple when we vote, and it should last until the next election. That way, if you don’t have a purple thumb and you start complaining, everyone can tell you to shut up because you didn’t care enough to vote.”
Okay, I don’t say exactly that. (I just think it.) What I do say are things like, “People DIED for the right to vote and you aren’t going to vote?!?”

My mother was such a SuperVoter – even holding political office once – that I’m sure she’s furious she missed voting in this election. She raised a ruckus once to get a ballot delivered to her in the hospital. She threatened to pull out IV tubes, discharge herself, and drive to the polling place. Which, in the end, is what she did.

So you’ll be there next Tuesday, right?

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