The less cynical side

I was a poll volunteer (“election judge”) in Chicago for the November 2004 election. It was a long, boring day…there was a rush of voters before work, a few during lunch time, and a smaller wave after work. The hours in between, we’d see just one or two voters. It was a ghost town.

There were four of us there, two declared from each major party, in a kind of check-and-balance setup. Smart move, Chicago Board of Elections. Since there was a lot of down time, and given the circumstances, there was a lot of political talk. Maybe a shade more informed than what we’ve come to expect in our current social media-driven discourse, but still full of the “your guy sucks and you’re ruining America” vibe that is the norm here for the last, oh, forever years. It was the worst combination: tedious, frustrating, and inescapable. Fifteen hours with these people.

But there was one moment that I would bet none of us has forgotten since. During the morning lull, an older woman and her entire family—husband, children, a few grandchildren, some others—came in together, all very excited. She had just naturalized after living here for many years, and they all wanted to celebrate her very first vote. So much pride, so much accomplishment there. They asked me to take their picture and it was my honor to do so, capturing her standing at the little aluminum voting box with all of them around her, beaming. I wished I had my own camera. She hugged all four of us judges as she handed her ballot over. When we put it into the machine, her whole family burst into applause and it was suddenly dusty in there for all of us.

It’s not for nothing; it matters. Vote, but please vote informed.

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  1. abundanceofcalm said: Thank you for sharing this.
  2. tonimclellan said: My dear friend’s dad was a Republican judge, but before that, he monitored elections in Chicago. Sat down one election day morning, coffee in hand. Next thing he knew, polls were closed. Knocked out cold. My grandpa was paid to vote early & often.
  3. scholvin posted this