I Voted

November 4, 2008

I voted this morning. I got in line at about 11:15 and was out the door by 11:45. I voted at the Brown Elementary School in Somerville, Mass., in the middle of a heavily Democratic and liberal district. This was by far the longest wait I’ve ever had at that polling station (I’ve never had a wait before at that polling station). It was funny to see all the people in line – assorted college kids, immigrants, hipsters, people clearly dressed for working at home. One woman had her infant with her. In front of me was a man who barely spoke English who was clearly voting for the first time (he had no idea how to fill out the ballot and had to be assisted). People were extraordinarily friendly. One group of poll workers had set up a bake sale with coffee. A couple of kids with their father rode unicycles and threw frisbees to entertain the crowd. The operation was remarkably efficient – we were checked in by a volunteer immediately upon getting in line. We were also told that we were free to leave the line and come back and that our place would be held (few did so). A good number of people recognized friends and acquaintances (I knew one woman near the front of the line who is a student at Tufts). People with registration irregularities were told as soon as they got into line, and were told what documentation they needed, so they could take care of it before they got to the front of the line. Everything was clearly marked in English and Spanish.

When I got to the front of the line, an elderly woman was escorted in with a walker. She could barely hold herself up. She was given a desk and chair to vote, and was allowed to skip the line. In spite of how difficult it must’ve been for her, she came out and she voted.

It was clearly not representative of America, though. The two women behind me talked about getting tickets to the Decemberists (I’m going to that show as well) and to the latest Tom Stoppard play. Many had taken books to read. There were no flags, buttons, pins, or slogans ANYWHERE. Even outside the polling place there were a few Obama signs but NO signs for McCain. Not one.

The weather was perfect – sunny and 60 degrees.

Voting itself was surprisingly emotional. Going over there, I was approaching it as a chore, and just wanted to get it over with. But even waiting in line there was a sense in the air that something extraordinary was going on – we were all taking part in something special. People were completely untroubled by the wait. When I got my ballot and saw the names on there, it really hit home that this was no ordinary election. I just looked at the names on there for while “Obama and Biden,” thinking I’d likely always remember this.

After leaving (wearing my “I Voted” sticker) I went by the polling station in Davis Square. There, there was a line wrapped around the corner. I have never seen anything like this. Not once, in all my years of voting in this country.

This is no ordinary day.

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