On Halloween afternoon, I cast my vote for President of the United States. Given how frightening this election campaign has been, the timing was somehow appropriate. Yet, I’m pleased to report, no ghosts showed up to cast bogus ballots.
Here in Massachusetts, we have open voting for two weeks prior to Election Day. In my city, the polling place rotates among five locations on weekdays, with all five sites open on weekends. The hours are extensive and convenient.
When I arrived around 3 o’clock at the Monday polling site, a Unitarian Universalist Church that’s a short drive from home, the parking lot was full. A steady stream of voters flowed in and out of the modest brick building—older couples, middle-aged singles, parents with kids.
On the afternoon of trick-or-treating, with parties and last minute costumes and candy to buy, you’d think people would be otherwise pre-occupied. But any concerns about voters being discouraged by fears of rigged elections, foregone outcomes or voter intimidation (amazing to think I am even writing these words) certainly were not relevant here.
Instead, the mood was sober and focused. Few people spoke in line (only about 10 people ahead of me when I arrived, and the wait was maybe five minutes). One woman behind me was still trying to make up her mind. “This has been the most confusing election, and it just seems to get worse,” she said. The man behind her simply answered, “Just vote your heart.”
Four volunteers sat behind a long table, each using a computer tablet to access voter registration data. Over and over, they explained the same instructions, once the voter gave name, address and confirmed birthdate, received the proper precinct ballot, then signed the ballot envelope: There were two paper ballots, one double-sided, be sure to turn it over to vote on all the ballot questions, re-fold when done, place in the envelope, seal and hand it to the police officer at the ballot box. I give these people a lot of credit—efficient, professional, clear, patient. No nonsense.
I carried my envelope to the voting booth—read and reread everything to be sure I understood what I was doing, reviewed it after marking my choices (what if I made a mistake?), then sealed it up and handed it to the police officer, who checked that it was signed and sealed before slipping it into the red-white-and-blue wooden ballot box.
By the door, a man in a black watch cap was sitting, arms folded on the back of a chair, eyeing the line of voters. One of the volunteers walked up to him. “Are you an observer?” she asked with a polite smile. I think he shook his head and moved on, but I was already on my way out. Whatever he was doing, there was no hassle. As I left, the line stretched down the short corridor to the entry door, and the steady stream of voters continued. No one was arguing. No one was shouting insults. No one was even holding signs for one candidate or the other across the street.
Just the peaceful, serious, fair and open business of exercising the most precious right we have as U.S. citizens. I felt good, walking to my car. This is the way it’s supposed to work.
Whether you can vote early or only on Election Day—vote your heart, vote your mind, vote your conscience. This year, of all years, just be sure to vote.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.