Happy Voting Day, everyone!
I first went to my local polling place at 10:30 AM. The line was wrapped around the parking lot, it looked like at least a two-hour wait, and rain was likely. I was, in one sense, pleased to see such a huge turnout, but I also wondered why our local election officials hadn't made better arrangements. I didn't want to wait for two hours in the rain, and couldn't find a place to park, so I decided to return later.
At 2:30 PM, things were better, so I got into line. The polling location was an elementary school cafetorium. As I walked through the line, I looked at the decorations and other items on the walls. The theme was "Rock and Roll", with paper cutouts of acoustic guitars and record albums (how many elementary school kids have ever seen a vinyl record?). The menu for the previous day's lunch included a "chix sandwich", which made me wonder if the meat came from the same animal that is the source of McNuggets.
During my 45 minutes or so in line, I thought a lot about the voting process. My thoughts drifted toward cynicism. I thought about the futility of voting in a state that will probably go 60% Bush. I thought about the fact that in most of the local races, the incumbent was running unopposed.
I did have a pleasant Democracy Moment: as I neared the end of the line, the woman behind me said "Excuse me, this is my first time voting in this country. Can you tell me where I go?" I suddenly felt very proud to be welcoming a newcomer to the wonderful world of freedom and democracy. (For all I know, she may have come from a country that is more free and democratic than the USA, but I took my duties as Ambassador of American Glory very seriously.) I wasn't sure exactly what we had to do, so I explained that the procedures were different in every location, and if we'd just go to the first table and do what the election workers said, they would tell us what to do next. She thanked me as we walked forward to the table to fill out our voter forms, and my cynicism was gone.
It returned when I was handed my "voting card", a smart card for the paper-free touch-screen voting machines. The machines were easy to use, and I have no reason to believe they are any less secure than the punch cards we had in previous elections, but I left with the feeling that my vote hadn't really been registered by the machine. Maybe it's just a side effect of being a computer programmer, but I have absolutely no trust in these things.
So now we'll have to sit back and see who wins the first vote count. Then who wins the second vote count. Then the first lawsuit, and so on. Several bloggers I read seem to think that things are leaning toward Kerry, but they're pro-Kerry so I can't believe them.
I am left with good feelings about the day. Even with my cynicism, I was impressed with the cheerfulness and courtesy of the other people in line. There were no loudmouth idiots expounding simplistic views, or people who have nothing to do but belittle the views of others. I think there's hope for civility in America.