Does my vote matter? Of course it does. It makes me a citizen.
Tuesday morning, Nov. 4, dawned cold and clear. My quiet neighborhood showed few signs of life, but here and there a porch light shone, a roof vent spouted steam from a warm kitchen, and a dog or two bounded around the fenced confines of a back yard, freed from their overnight indoor imprisonment.
Yet there were subtle differences from the norm. As I pulled out of my garage earlier than my usual schedule, I noticed both my across-the-street neighbors were also leaving a bit early. As it turned out, we were all headed to the same place.
Our local polling place.
As I turned into the side street next to the voting hall, trying to avoid running into the several pop-up tents filled with various candidates’ supporters (including one hardy soul in knit cap, winter coat...and cargo shorts), I realized that the lot had a larger number of vehicles parked than is par for the course on an election day.
I found a spot not too far from the front, helped an elderly man with a walker negotiate the short steps up to the door, then entered myself. A table filled with friendly volunteers welcomed me, asked for my ID, and while one checked my driver’s license, the other inquired as to how my rose bushes were doing. Yes, even in the midst of a large(ish) city, the voting precinct retains the small-town touch.
Assuring the inquisitive agronomist my roses were indeed fine and none the worse for the wear from my recent enthusiastic pruning, I filled out my voting card, signed into the voting book and picked up my ballot. Finding an empty voting booth wasn’t difficult, but not as easy as it was during the last several election days. I adjusted the privacy screen, opened the ballot, and began to read.
And read some more.
I am the son of an English teacher who went on to become a senior technical editor with a large computer company. I am the great-grandson of a Knoxville newspaper editor. It has been more than a quarter-century since I started in the newspaper business. To say my command and understanding of the English language is strong is accurate. Yet the ballot was written in a jargon that shared only a passing relationship with our native tongue.
Even so, I bravely made my way through the whereases and therefores and amendmentifications (not to be confused with obfuscation, though they appear to be close cousins), and hopefully was able to surmise both the letter and intent of what I was being asked to vote upon.
After ten minutes, some pen chewing, and a desire to make sure every oval was completely and irrevocably marked in black ink, I finished and brought my completed ballot to the ballot tender.
Under her watchful eye, I signed the top of the ballot, tore it off, fed the rest of the ballot into the machine, and then placed the signed top into a small cardboard box and happily accepted my bright orange “I Voted” sticker.
My civic duty completed, it was time to head to work.