Wednesday, November 7, 2012

an opinion poll, of sorts

I voted by absentee ballot this year, and I am glad I did.  I have never been good at waiting in line and, sad to say, I have gotten worse as I have gotten older.  But there was a loss of community, a loss of continuity as I sat at my desk in my pjs and completed my ballot.

I can remember going to the polls with both my parents in the mid and late 1950s.  My mother would take me during the day, and my dad would take me in the evening when he got home from work.  Although we lived across the street from the closest polling place (the high school) for some reason our ward had to vote at a small parish hall on Third Street, I believe it was.  So we would walk over there, and if I was lucky, the parent I was with would allow me a few spins on a lonely merry-go-round in a small playground next to the hall.

It seems like it was always cold outside, and the hall felt overheated as we entered wearing our heavy coats.  My parents waited their turns to vote in the wonderful old voting machines with the curtains around them.  I watched, fascinated, as voter after voter entered the booth and closed the curtain, seeing only their legs as they did - whatever it was one did - in that secret place.  Those machines seemed straight out of The Wizard of Oz, and it has since occurred to me that perhaps that is exactly what the movie intended.  ("Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.")  But I digress.  How thrilled I was the first time I entered one of those booths on my own to cast my first vote -  for George McGovern, to be sure.

I can't remember where Ben and I voted when we lived in the apartment on Washington Avenue.  The church across the street?  The American Legion Hall on Gulf Road?  Nope.  Can't remember.  When we lived on Longford, we voted at St. Jude's, and in 1980, Ben and I had to take turns going in to vote, as one of us had to stay in the car with our newborn son while the other voted.  We just couldn't risk exposing him to all those germs that would surely be found in that public place.

When we lived in Eastern Heights, we voted at Eastern Heights, of course.  I loved voting there.  In later years, my walk down the hall to the polling room took me past photos of Tom and Julie and their friends, hung on the wall for their academic excellence.  It was with great pride that I took each of them there twelve years ago to cast their first votes.  (Tom and Julie I mean. Their friends were on their own.)

In Kent, we voted at the shelter house at Fred Fuller Park.  That was a great place to vote.  It was great to vote in Kent, in general, where everyone voted just like me, of course, but it was more than that.  There was always a fire burning in the big fireplace, and I loved that some voters brought in armloads of firewood when they came to vote.  One year I was asked to remove my campaign button from my jacket as I stood in line there.  I thought it was a pricky thing to do, but legally correct, so I removed it.

I think in the near future we will probably be able to vote online, and I am sure I will do so.  But, I tell you, something is lost when parents no longer bring their children to see our democratic process at work, to eagerly await the day when they can vote, just like mommy and daddy.   And I'm not sure being able to vote in one's pjs will make up for that.


Ben said...

Another interesting post! I'm jealous of your "voting memories" because I really have none. I guess it really is a rite of passage to adulthood. In my childhood, voting simply meant a day off from school. I cast my first vote to re-elect Richard Nixon. I was a single-issue voter that year because of the "1H" draft card in my pocket. I figured a standing president could get us out of Vietnam faster than a newly-elected one. But the whole Nixon thing sort of put me off politics for a while, so I became a non-voter, until Tom and Julie shamed me into voting again years later. I couldn't handle them "being disappointed" in me. (Works both ways, eh kids?) :)
I also liked voting at the shelter house in Kent. I felt like we were all on a mission together, conspiring to accomplish great things for the country. I remember how disappointed I was/we were when Bush won in 2000, and then was re-elected in 2004. But things have gone well since then, and out here in Maryland where we don't know anyone, the absentee ballot gets the job done efficiently. But I agree that something is lost when you're not part of the great mass of voting public insistent on making their voices heard.

anne mancine said...

I think you said it very well, Ben. It's important to be "part of the great mass of voting public insistent on making their voices heard".

I talked to Jules about this yesterday, and was delighted to find that her childhood memories of accompanying me to vote are virtually identical to the ones I have. She said being there seemed very solemn and important to her. (And she loved those old curtained voting booths, too!)

Andrew said...

My own voting-shame story involves not voting for Gore against Bush when I was at OU in 2000. The line outside Baker Center just off-campus was too long (I hadn't changed my registration to Athens County like Julie had, and hadn't gotten an absentee ballot for Summit, so I had to vote provisional.), so I went back to the dorms, sans voting.
Ohio went strongly for Bush in the end, of course, but not being able to say (and know) that I did what I could have to defeat our country's worst president, still rankles.
And so I've proudly voted in each midterm and general election since I moved to Maryland. My candidates don't always win (till this year!), but I feel better about the whole thing.

anne mancine said...

Andrew, I still feel terribly guilty about not voting the year James A. Rhodes was re-elected governor of Ohio. It was especially horrible to us students living in Kent so soon after May 4th.