Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day: Long Lines With Patient People

I’ve been voting in the same precinct for 33 years. I always arrive a little before the polls open at 6:30. I got into that habit so my husband and I could vote before work. Usually there are only one or two people in line for my precinct and I am in an out in probably less than 5 minutes after the polls open.

Not this year.

When I arrived at the polling location at 6:15 AM, there was already a long line forming, part of it out the door. I was standing about three people away from the entrance. By the time the polls opened at 6:30, the line had reached quite a ways away from me, winding down the sidewalk. It was something I’d never seen before – a crowd when the polls opened!

The other thing that I’d never seen before was so many people waiting in line, patiently. And they were happy, too. No one seemed to mind.

I was also grateful that, after knowing that Ohio had supposedly mandated paper ballots, that in areas where other voting methods had been previously approved, paper ballots only had to be made available for use if someone so requested them. This meant that we still could use our touch screen voting machines. As the doors to the actual voting area were opened and we saw the touch screens, many around me in the line breathed a sigh of relief. One only person – who seemed to be about 25 years old and didn’t want to wait for a voting machine, used the paper ballot. What I found amusing is that the paper ballots, after completion, were to be placed in one of those big plastic covered storage bins, at the foot of one man who remained seated next to it the whole time. That seemed less secure than an electronic ballot. And, every voter had to take a printed slip of paper which indicated they were voting either by paper or electronic. This piece of paper was given to the polling worker as you were assigned either your electronic voting machine or a paper ballot. We’ve never had to do that before, but I guess because they gave the option of paper ballots to voters, it meant more paper for everyone.

Still, it was amazing how everyone seemed patient as they waited. In fact, people seemed to be chatting happily with others around them, maybe discovering a new neighbor.

It took me one hour, from the open of the polls to me completing my vote. Not as quick as I’m used to, but not a bad wait. One polling worker, who has worked there for years, commented that he felt we were seeing history. I just hope the outcome is the history that I am hoping for. It’s great to see so many people engaged in this election, for whatever their reasons. Hopefully, it will signal an interest in voting in other elections, even the smaller ones, for years to come.

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