Like many of you, I still prefer to cast a ballot on the day those smarter than we are set aside for the quick, and efficient, means of the constituents having their voices heard. Tuesday, I heard that, and a whole lot more.
I have always voted in person on election day, the second Tuesday in November. I don’t know which of the founding fathers thought that particular date was the best for the sake of democracy, but I grew up with it, and now it’s as ingrained as the driver on the right has the right-of-way at a four-way stop.
Tuesday morning I went early…was there when they opened the doors at my precinct voting spot in Covington, and I wasn’t alone. There were probably thirty waiting to cast their ballots, some ahead of their daily schedule…others with a sense of obligation, as strong as baptism or paying one’s respects for the deceased.
There was quiet conversation in the waiting line. There always is, but usually about crops, or sports, or the latest street project in Covington that’s gone beyond projected completion.
People usually keep their comments to themselves about politics, and voting. It’s like talking about religion. It’s safer if you don’t. But Tuesday I noticed that people were more comfortable – open – in sharing some concerns about the process, and the issues, that will shape their future.
Media has made a big deal – a huge deal – over comments about a vote for particular candidates being a vote for the end of democracy as we know it. Congressman Jim Clyburn even called it…the end of the world.
Yet, on Tuesday I didn’t hear one word mentioned about the end of democracy…and certainly not about the end of the world. Just, “Why can’t we get better candidates?” someone said.
There was mention of the economy, inflation – of how expensive gas and diesel was. “Everything costs so much” said a woman who waited to vote before going to work.
There seemed little worry about speaking freely, as it is when everyone are resolute in their purpose. The talk, what there was, centered around local matters, as not a word was mentioned about JD Vance or Tim Ryan, or the other national races.
The line, now numbering about fifty, moved slowly as the volunteer ladies and gentlemen working the precinct did their due diligence to properly follow identification protocol. When I showed them my Ohio driver’s license, they looked at it and asked me to state my name, and address. They took NOTHING for granted…with anyone, even someone who lived next door. There was no mention, or suggestion, of voter suppression. Just respect for the privilege of the moment.
Someone mentioned mail-in, and early voting. “But I don’t mind getting up early and voting in person.” His meaning was clear.
I thought of my dad, who for as long as he was able to drive and walk insisted on voting in person. He died before mail-in ballots became the thing they are today, but I know what he would have said. “The bigger you make something the more chance there is to screw it up.” Before I was old enough to vote, I remember going with him, and watching him hand his ballot to the appropriate individual who placed it securely in the box. That was the process he trusted.
My neighbor, Bob Shefbuch, used to say “If you’re too lazy to go vote you don’t deserve to be an American.” And he meant it. An ex-United States Marine, for decades he was the first person at the door of the fire department on election day, and insisted on being the first to vote.
Like Bob, the people in line Tuesday took it seriously, appreciative of the opportunity to have their voice heard – appreciation for at least some self-determination about their future, and what it might cost.
When I finished my ballot, I took it to the man who was working the scanner. There’s no longer a ballot ‘box’. He asked me to wait until he was certain that it had been properly entered and counted.
“Just making sure,” he said, obviously appreciative of the responsibility, a metaphor to the line that was out the door as I left, by now reaching all the way to the parking lot.
I thought of Bob Shefbuch, and all of those who still believe voting is so important as to come in person, even with a walker or a wheelchair – the greatest of privileges.
The process of democracy…is still that big a deal.