My mom called me yesterday morning to ask me whether I’d gotten a flu shot or voted yet. I’d feel better when I got those things out of the way, she assured me. So I ticked one off my list yesterday.
The line snaked back and forth like an amusement park ride, only this one was full of people shuffling their feet, text messaging on cell phones, or scratching their names and addresses onto cards while poll workers made sure to give a clipboard and pen to anyone who needed them.
“It will take about two hours,” a police officer told us as we joined the end of the line. There were groans and shrugs, but not one of us budged.
I chatted quietly with two women on either side of me, both clutching Democratic party sample ballots. We made pacts that we’d save each others’ place in line if someone had to pee. We found out that all three of us made a habit of voting no matter what, but we all saw people desert the lines in 2004, unwilling or unable to take the time.
This time, people with canes, people with squirmy, unhappy babies, college students with sociology homework and people in wheelchairs quietly waited in the line. We talked about Florida, where we heard that some people were already waiting in seven-hour lines because they wanted to be counted, just as we did. We talked about how we weren’t going to take any chances by waiting until Tuesday.
We marveled at the massive, diverse crowd – probably about half African-American voters, of every age. It seemed like more than half of the room was carrying Democratic party sample ballots, including one older woman in a white sweatshirt that said “Jesus’ All-Star Team: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Me.” A middle-aged woman reading Night by Elie Weisel used her ballot as a bookmark, as did a young one, her nose buried in Kabul Beauty School. by Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson.
One man argued loudly with his car insurance company on his bluetooth headset for fully half an hour, at one point claiming that he was currently driving his car. One of my line companions warned us that we were about to be run over.
We were a little sore and cranky by the time we got in, but it was not quite and hour and a half before we reached the big room, full of private cubes were we could fill out our paper ballots, seal them in an envelope, deposit them into the giant steel ballot boxes and get our ‘I voted” stickers.
There was something gratifying about marking my choices in ink on clear, easy-to-read ballots. I was relieved not to entrust my precious vote to the software of a Republican company. I was relieved to see so many people so hell-bent on voting. I was relieved, because four years ago, I didn’t feel outnumbered by people who disagreed with me, I felt distrustful of and angered by the voting process.
My eyes welled up as I left. I grabbed an “I voted early for Barack Obama” sicker from one of the volunteers in the parking lot and went home.