Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 11-07-04
By Jeff Gill

For years the pre-dawn November gloom of Election Day has retreated outside of the sudden brightness of our polling place, the American Legion Hall on Basin Street.
(We interrupt this narrative to note that on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, the Legion will host a 10:30 am program that Thursday before a VFW program at 11, all at the Veteran’s Memorial at Evans Park on Refugee Road. Your correspondent will share a brief message on “The Oath of Enlistment”; we’ll see you there!)
Inside, along with Irene and Betty and Betty and the whole pollworker gang, I’m used to seeing Mayor Mason and Dave Porter, faithful bus driver for Lakewood, vie for the title of first voter. Me, I’m happy to be third or fourth, no problem.
6:22 am on Election Day 2004: I arrive to see almost 20 people in line already. Dave Porter took the crown this year, having arrived at 5:30 with his newspaper, read right down to the classified ads by 6:35, when the doors opened to a line now 50 some people long.
After attempting to challenge Richard Hoskinson’s vote (it seemed the thing to do, from the TV news chatter), I cast my ballot, chad-checked, and left stickered up as a certified Voter . . . passing a line some 75 folks long and growing.
Through the day I passed polling places in Heath, Newark, and Granville, where a line poured out the front door of the Presbyterian Church as if waiting for Easter service seating. The rain was now pouring down with malicious intent, but even those without umbrellas looked patient and resolute.
Democracy in America looked pretty secure on November 2; thanks to all who took the time and braved the soggy lines to vote. Some said partisanship led to more committed voter behavior this year, but I think that many of us have taken more to heart the sights and stories of how folks in Afghanistan and Indonesia risk drive-by shooting or suicide bombing to wait in three hour long lines, and put our own privilege to vote in perspective. Either way, and whoever won (as of this writing, I have not the faintest idea), it was a good day.
Something else I like seeing each national Election Day is that subtle reminder of how we are still the country we try to be in many more ways than not.
The presidential candidates, incumbent and challenger, usually both resident in well-heeled or unique locales (this year, Fox Chapel PA, Boston MA in Beacon Hill, and Crawford TX were on view), are shown early and often in election coverage going to cast their votes. Even an ex-president was shown (Chappaqua NY, but you knew that) along with their family casting a single vote like everyone else.
But that’s not what I like . . . well, I do like the idea that we each have our one vote and not per share of stock or allocated by how many acres we own . . . anyhow.
I really appreciate the sight of the polling places John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry and George and Laura Bush and even the Clintons vote at. They are neighborhood schools and firehouses and Legion Halls. Kids’ art and fire drill posters and concrete block brightly painted around a familiar room of folding tables and ranks of voting machines.
Here we are even more equal than in the singularity of our vote, in those public spaces and watched by pollworkers who could be residents of these Hebron Crossroads, even as they cast a watchful eye while the leader or would-be leader of the mostly-free world casts their ballot.
In the end, it comes down to a simple common experience. Yes, there’s a human factor in the counting and maneuvering of the totaling and the projecting and the conceding (or not conceding), and the human factor can be quite unpretty at times, but that is truly the exception, not the rule.
The rule is seen in the steady stream of election judges parking around County Administration Buildings, the candidates and their friends and supporters cramming into a stuffy room downstairs, and the eager looks at clerks and officials entering the room with sheaves of preliminary results. No goon squads or armed guards, no harsh words or brutal acts. Just the work of democracy, done for conviction as much if not more than for pay, done by people who live down the street and around the corner.
And if you don’t believe me? Fine, because you can go and see it all happen for yourself. Anyone can, and many do. As Howard Dean said here in Licking County a few weeks ago, if you aren’t happy at certain influences in the electoral process, then you have the power to influence it yourself.
Even if it’s just by competing to be the first voter each year, as dawn breaks.

Jeff Gill is a registered voter who hasn’t missed a day at the polls that they were open since he was 18; if you want to tell your story of a day at the ballot box, e-mail him at disciple@voyager.net.