Yesterday was quite the day. I worked in the polls for the General Election. Arrive at 6:00 AM, and we didn’t get things wrapped up until about 9:30 PM. We did get lunch, but around dinner time we had a rush that was more or less continuous until closing. Turnout in our precinct was fairly good, but not as much for the precinct that shared the polling location with us. While it is true that we of the United States are not required to vote, consider how many people in the world don’t have the option.
I am just finishing reading “Flyboys” by James Bradley (“Flags of Our Fathers”). Good timing. I worked with two WWII veterans, one each in the Pacific and one European Theaters, and a third man maybe about ten years younger than me. The two vets I’m guessing are in their 70s, both infantry, one with a Purple Heart, and what minds! They were great with conversation in the lulls of the day, and, unlike my previous experience voting, the day passed easily. These two were on top of the game every instant of the day, running number tallies in their heads, aware if it appeared we were off count by one ballot, chatting amicably with us “kids” (my word choice) when it was quiet and the voters as they came through. He has been president of a local civic organization.
“Pacific” didn’t want to talk about his war experiences, but he knew every street in the district. “Are you the second or third house from the end? Your next door neighbor is an attorney isn’t he?” “Your house backs up to the Green Belt. My daughter used to live across the street from you.” After WWII, he worked in the space field and knew some of the people that my dad worked with, though they worked on different projects and in different companies.
“European” was our team leader, and he definitely had our backs. All day he was in and out of his chair, checking things, filling in when one of us went for coffee or stood up to stretch and were surprised by a voter coming in the door, across the room to assist a votor. Sometimes he was hard to keep track of because he handled so many things seamlessly and seemingly at the same time. Agile, almost sprightly, with a wry sense of humor and sparkling eyes to match.
One interesting observation was the number of VBM Ballots – Vote By Mail as they call Absentee Ballots here in California. “Pacific” says that 51% of voters are registered VBM. Many still come to the polls. They don’t know how they got onto the VBM list and don’t really want to be on it, but can’t figure out how change their status. Too, about 98% of voters wanted their “I Voted” sticker with enthusiasm bordering on passion. There were several comments showing people prefer paper ballots. They were vague about it, but through the day, hearing several half answers as to why and seeing people greet each other on their way in and out, I realized that voting is a community event. By arriving at the polls, one is telling the world, their neighbors, that they care about the community, that they are involved and aware, that what happens to other people matters to them. It is an opportunity to see those people that you maybe only see occasionally and remember that we are all in this together. We are reminded and remind each other that others are important, too.
I strongly encourage everyone to step away from their hand-held electronic leash (aka: telephone) for a little while on a consistent basis and remember that we humans are social beings, not social-media beings. Spend some time with people, engage with them (sober), do something for your community.
Yesterday was one of my days off work this week. It was a long, exhausting day and I’m feeling tired going in to today’s work day. But it also was invigorating. I met some nice people who I would be willing to go in to any situation with. And I’m proud to have been part of the process of running our great nation and reconnecting with commnity.