Last Tuesday was voting day in the United States for most people. Though it wasn’t the president we were voting for, we were electing state officials which is equally as important.
Bear in mind, I do not affiliate with any particular political party. I do not feel an American can be defined as a whole by the ideals of one party. We all tend to lean one way or another and share some beliefs as our counterparts on the opposite end of the spectrum. It would be unfair to say we are definitely ANYTHING. You could say I’m a fence sitter, the voter candidates want on their side. It doesn’t mean I’m special, or think people should fight over me for my opinion. If a candidate gets my vote, it is an earnestly thought out decision. Many people fought for the right to vote so people like me could, and it isn’t something I take lightly.
When Tuesday rolled around, I made sure to get ready early for work and vote on the way there. Dressed in my work uniform, equipped with my name tag, I pulled up to the school where we vote. The school is lodged between two large pieces of farm land and sits across from a gas station. It’s right in the middle of a burgeoning district where a lot of voters my age are parents and raising families. We also have the older crowd who are either grandparents, or they are in the age where their children are already moved out of the house. We are the generations starting to make this place a city, a place to be, a place to live. As I strolled up the sidewalk, there was a small gathering of middle-aged people in sunglasses. Fifteen years ago this was a different story. Fifteen years ago I was 21 and inundated by a gauntlet of volunteers; people my parents age, to vote for fluoride use in the water systems, or not. I had a handful of flyers and talked to 5 different people by the time I reached the voting booth. This time I was surprised.
It was close to 100 degrees out. Everyone seemed to huddle in the sun near their campaign posters. As I got closer I flashed a huge smile to the man with a pot belly in his 50’s wearing a straw hat and police issue glasses. He kind of smiled back. Finally I said, “How ya’ doin’ today?” He exchanged a mundane platitude and a comment about the heat. Just past him was a woman who just looked at me, had a slight smile on her face, not saying anything to me. To her side was another male in his late 60’s shooting the breeze with someone close to his age. The woman still didn’t acknowledge me. They all stayed close to their signs like lizards wearing shades under a heat lamp, not speaking a word to me.
Once inside the school library where the voting took place, it was a different story. Air conditioning may have greeted my skin but the poll volunteers there (who are to be impartial) greeted me with warmth. They were glad to see the turn out they had. We talked about education and teased about penmanship. It was a contrast to the “heir” outside. Their smiles made me want to stay and talk to them longer and have an intelligent conversation about topics that ACTUALLY matter.
After filling in the little bubbles next to soon-to-be-important names, I turned in my voter ballot. It was anti-climactic.
I wanted to celebrate for those who couldn’t vote in the past, for my great grandmothers, my great aunts, those family members who wrote in newspapers trying to get the word out that our voice, though it may feel as though you are one, lone, female voice, it still matters. I wanted to celebrate that I wasn’t taken away in handcuffs like Susan B. Anthony for being a voting female, or that I was allowed to vote even though my ancestry isn’t 100% white.
Confetti didn’t rain from the ceiling, the pollsters didn’t start a slow-clap erupting into applause. It was silent. Silence followed by the whir of the machine sucking in my ballot like a spaghetti noodle and two elderly people trying to remember what they were going to do next.
With my hand on the metal bar of the door, I was already regretting the feel of the heat on my face, but even more so, I wasn’t looking forward to the secret cold judgement of the political volunteers that stood on the other side of the sidewalk. To my surprise, when I opened the door and moseyed down the sidewalk, a man was approaching the school the same manner. Idid.
The man was in his mid 40’s, Caucasian, wearing a plaid collared dress shirt, nice dress slacks, a black leather belt and scuff free shoes. The volunteers moved toward him and started to bring him into their huddle. They did all but break out the ticker tape parade. The man I had to greet, greeted this guy with open arms, a smile and a polite exchange. The woman said a sentence to him. The other man who couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to a potential voter when I came in, greeted this guy with a huge hello, open arms and a pen.
I went back to my car, got in, and while waiting for the heat to dissipate I looked out wondering, “Where’s my pen?”
Have you experienced anything like this at the voting booth? Was it due to age, gender or race?