By the time I’d passed voter number 249 and counting at 6:15 a.m. on election morning, I was wondering if I needed a chair. Still searching for the end of the line after nodding to voter number 325, I wondered if a good book and cup of hot chocolate would have been a better idea. When my husband and I finally reached the last person in line, we were almost back to where we had parked our car in the parking lot! The privilege of voting for the President of the United States doesn’t present itself very often, but the experience of casting my personal vote for Barack Obama may have been one of the most unforgettable and historic events of my life!
At first, I was slightly worried that so many people standing outside in the chilly pre-dawn air might cause some to leave and loose the opportunity to vote, or provoke irritation and complaints along the polite but sleepy-eyed line that snaked itself around the large brick building and disappeared into the large front doors. Many of the patiently waiting voters nursed steaming cups of coffee from the local Starbucks Café. Most of the men leaned into the morning newspaper, and a few women shared small jokes and comments about the first woman-elect vice president, Sarah Palen.
Right on the dot of 6:30 a.m., the election clerk hurries along the line shouting cheerfully, “The polls are officially open. Welcome to election day!” She instructs those who do not want to use the electronic voting machines that they may request a paper ballot. As she speaks, the man in front of me starts walking forward and, unlike grocery checkout lanes, the crowd does not stop moving until we reach the large voting room.
Divided into four lines according to our place in the alphabet, we are suddenly a group of friendly people instead of solitary dots on the path. A few smile and start small talk. Some wave as they recognize friends and neighbors. Cell phones come to life. Some lean over to stretch tired back muscles. The murmur of voices grows louder as the morning sun peeks through the windows, and restless little ones are pulled back into line. I borrow a pen from hubby and start writing on my cheat-sheet as I scan the room and take notes of what I see.
There are 18 voting booths evenly divided on each side of the room. Pole workers assist each voter as needed. Already, one machine has malfunctioned and is quickly closed up. I tell my husband that I’m sure the election clerk is already on the phone to the IT (information technology) man. There seems to be several back-ups of everything. Piles of extension cords lay exposed along the wall. Every plug is filled, and patchwork cords cover the floor almost to the point of becoming a hazard. Under the sign-in tables, I see stacks of paper ballots, rolls of “I Voted” stickers, change-of-address cards, and miscellaneous supply boxes.
At 7:30 a.m., my husband and I reached the sign-in table. The man just ahead of me ran into a little trouble because the address on his drivers’ license didn’t match his current address on the voting record. I was prepared for the same problem. Handing the worker my electric bill along with my drivers’ license, I explained the electric bill, with my name on it, matched the address she had. Smiling she handed them back and said it had made her job much easier. I signed the appropriate line in the registration book, and was given a small piece of paper to give the election worker at the polling booth.
Now we had to join a waiting line for the voting machines. I quickly counted the people and the machines on each side of the room and announced to those behind me that one side had eight machines and 14 people. The other side of the room had nine machines and 15 people waiting. Several voters chuckled as we anticipated finally reaching the end of the long wait.
I always ask my husband to make decisions on the local elections and issues. We might as well support each other’s vote instead of canceling each other out. Glancing at my cheat-sheet, I quickly tapped in the answers: John O’Grady for County Commissioner; Maryellen O’Shaughnessy for Clerk of Court of Common Pleas; and Edward Leonard for County Treasurer. I cast the same vote as my husband for Issues 3,5,6, and 75.
I’ve been rooting for Barack Obama, the junior United States Senator from Illinois, from early on. I believe I convinced my husband on that one. Surprisingly, my entire family, my children, my siblings, and my mother, are all voting for Barack Obama.
On the electronic ballot, there are eight choices for president. I’m shocked. Naively, I thought there were only two. Although the decision is easy, I make a note of the others who are running for president of the United States. There is, of course, the Republican Party’s nominee John McCain, the United States Senator from Arizona; the Libertarian Party nominated former Congressman Bob Barr; the Constitution Party, pastor and radio talk show host Chuck Baldwin; and the Green Party, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Ralph Nader declined to seek the Green Party nomination and ran as an independent candidate.
Walking out into the bright sunlight of a new day, I reflect to my husband that we might be on the verge of a historic moment for America – and I was a small but very important part of it!
Take Care on the Journey,