But Not This Time
November 14, 2008
Election Day, 2008. A typical Presidential election day has 10-20 voters waiting in line before the poll opens. Mostly people on their way to work or early-rising seniors. Today there were 50+ in the cool dark morning and they kept coming, lines to the front door until 8:30 a.m. Past the distance marker the House district Republican candidate has his cell phone glued to his ear and waves his sign at the honking cars as they pass. We are used to a mid-morning slow down, so when the rate slowed to a steady stream of two short lines, no surprise. The short bus from the upscale assisted living center drops off two ladies. One blind the other just came for company. The Automark gets its first use of the day, straight Republican. An elderly man votes and says he will bring his handicapped wife. So we get ready for a curbside vote process. But not this time. She is wheeled in and votes. We anticipated the lunchtime bump. But not this time. The Hispanic female in business suit needs help voting straight Democratic, except to vote for McCain/Palin, “it’s for religious reasons, you know.” The afternoon slowed while the wind whipped the candidates’ plastic signs posted out at the street. Homeschoolers trickle in with 2,3,4 children. The occasional voter whose name did not appear on the rolls. Claims of registration or address changes through the DPS fall on deaf ears at the voter registrar. You can vote a provisional ballot, but it probably won’t count. We said after 3:30 pm school would soon be out and the wave would swell and we might need to call for more ballots. But not this time. The 18 year old first-time voter who needed assistance to vote straight Democratic and then split his ballot for Sarah Palin, “because I like her.” Visions of Mrs. Robinson glimmered in his eye. Voters at the wrong precinct. Find their correct polling place and give directions. Plenty of time to get there before the polls close. Hospital doctors in their scrubs. The thirty something couple extract a frail grandpa from their luxury SUV and escort him to the booth and back out. Bring out your dead. When 5 p.m. came we just knew those lines would stretch back down the hall out to the parking lot. But not this time. At 6:30 p.m. we consolidated to one reception table. At 7 p.m. when the polls closed and the door was locked there was one voter at the reception table. By 7:10 p.m. he was gone. Perhaps, a few late comers knocking on the door after 7. But not this time. The 1,600 ballots we stacked at the beginning of the day now had one full packet of 400 unopened and another not half used. Surplus poll workers sent home. Signs, distance markers and sample ballots taken down at 7, ballot scanner done printing totals tapes by 7:40 p.m. 961 votes plus one provisional ballot out of a 5,100 precinct of registered voters. Ballots inventoried, multi-colored distribution envelopes stuffed with forms, transfer boxes loaded with marked ballots and sealed. Compensation form completed. Smooth as cool cream. Walked out the door at 8:15 p.m. Early voting and Republican depression took their toll. Change may have roared in at other polls. But not here. Not this time.