I was the first one at the polling place today. I heard the poll workers behind the door. “Where’s the extension cord.” ” There has to be a plug around here somewhere.” “No, the ballots with the blue stripe. Didn’t we get any of those?” And yes, I really heard it, “Where did you put the donuts?” I passed the time looking at photos of the graduating classes hung high on the wall in the hallway of the elementary school I was standing in. I even recognized the 1998 graduating picture of our next door neighbor’s daughter, who is now married with a young daughter who started school this fall.
I remember how physical voting used to be. In Ohio a mini-house/ hut was set up on a small roundabout in our neighborhood. This hut held a big piece of machinery. There was a lever that closed a heavy plastic curtain behind you, and then you were faced by a wall of rows of names with two to three inch heavy metal switches underneath each one, that you physically turned down for each candidate or proposal you voted for. When you pushed the original lever the opposite way to open the curtain behind you, your votes were tabulated and the wall was ready for the next person. It took real physical exertion and effort (even a bit of sweat) as well as the obvious intellectual and emotional energy to vote. Voting felt very concrete, tangible, and solid. Now we use a thin marker on floppy pieces of paper too long for the tall, wobbly, short-walled, unsubstantial, plastic “tv tables” (you know, like the ones from the 50s), that we are to write on.
My parents would never verbally share for whom they voted. Even when we would ask them, they were very quiet (almost shy) about their political choices answering that they chose not to speak about it, like it was some kind of secret sacred ritual they had just taken part in. Though it was clear in dinner table discussions where their sympathies rested, my brother, sister, and I were fascinated with the deliberate clandestine aura about the physical act of voting that they maintained.
This morning I shared these stories with my classes. They found them humorous, amusing, and puzzling, especially the act of voting as a secret sacred ritual. This seemed almost beyond their comprehension in a world where privilege and responsibility have differently nuanced connotations.
Their homework tonight is to watch election returns to support a good discussion tomorrow about this election and politics in general in this country. They shared the following video with me thinking I would find it pertinent. This portends an excellent conversation tomorrow.
If you haven’t already, get to your polling place and vote!