Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Get Out The Vote

I spent the last five hours working with the Oconee Democrats to get out the vote. Mostly there was not much to report, but a couple of things discouraged and encouraged me about democracy.

A woman called to say that she had not been allowed to vote in Easley, and that she was told that because she had moved on September 30th and registered in Easley on October 6th, that she had to vote in her old precinct, Seneca. The two are about 30-45 minutes apart, depending on traffic. It turns out that the reason she had moved was to move into an assisted living facility. She wanted us to drive her to Seneca to vote: she really wanted to vote because it might be her last time, and, she said, she really wanted to "vote that bum out." We really wanted to drive her to Seneca, but it was 5:45 pm, and the SC polls close at 7. And in order for us to pick her up we would have had to have permission in advance from a member of her family. It nearly put all of us in tears to have to tell her we just could not do it.

About that same time, we got two calls from two different women in the Friendship precinct, saying that the pollworkers had said they were shutting the doors at 7, despite the long line. We hustled around and finally I was in the car driving down there, getting lost on the way and wishing I had a navigator to consult the map while I drove--not to mention someone to deal with the cellphone. When I got there, it was almost 7, and people were still in line. It became clear quickly that everyone was going to be allowed to vote, that the doors they were closing were those that let people in, and everyone in line was inside already.

If you've been to Friendship, SC, I don't need to tell you that everyone in line knew each other, and the people working the polls, that there was a fair amount of ribbing going on, that people were admiring each other's children and taking the chance to catch up. As I sat there in my car, having let the Oconee folks know that everything looked OK, but just being sure, I got to thinking about what democracy is all about, here in the best of all possible worlds. I thought about those people standing in line to vote, probably having gotten there at the end of a long day, just in time to make their views count. Looking at them in line in the warm light of the inside, watching a couple of guys smoking outside, waiting for other people to finish up, I could not help but remember what an amazing thing it is that we get to do on the first Tuesday in November. And what an important thing it is that these ordinary people, lots of whom hardly have much power in this country otherwise, get a chance to make their views and desires and hopes known.

I'm settling in now to watch these returns, knowing that my bursting warmth for the American voting populace could get trounced in the next several hours, but also knowing that I could wake up tomorrow believing that we do have another chance at all this.

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