Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Election ladies

Our state has gone to mail-in ballots, which means the end of polling places for this fall's election. The reasons were cost, "convenience," blah blah blah. Something will be lost, though.

Ever since I started voting, the polls have always been staffed by people, mostly women, who were well on the other side of 70. I'm sure that they had an official title, but I always thought of them as the "election ladies." They'd look up your name--it usually took two of them, one to pronounce your name and the other to look it up--and then you'd sign the book. They'd give you your ballot (punch card or paper ballot or a Scantron sheet and Sharpie marker, depending on the state) or point you in the direction of the mechanical voting machine. Usually there was a cheerful election lady on the way out to see that you put your Scantron sheet or punch card into the locked box or machine. Sometimes she gave you a sticker that said "I voted!"

This felt like democracy, somehow. There I was in a place where I'd never usually be (an evangelical church was the most recent site for our district), with a lot of people I'd never usually see. We were all doing the same thing--voting--and if it felt like a little slice of a Frank Capra movie, that wasn't such a bad thing.

If you think about it, the election ladies were the first generation of American women (born circa 1920s) who came of age knowing that they could vote. Their mothers probably voted after the Nineteenth Amendment passed, but that generation had known what it was not to have a vote (as many other groups have known, to the eternal disgrace of the U.S., right up through the 1960s). Maybe the election ladies served as WACS in WWII. Maybe their mothers had impressed on them the significance of being able to vote, a right that women have had in this country for less than a hundred years. Maybe (let's not get too sentimental) they just wanted to get out of the house for election day. Whatever their reasons, the election ladies have volunteered to be at the polls every time, and now they won't be needed.

I'm going to miss the election ladies.


Professor Zero said...

Yes, I really like those election ladies!
We still have them, and it makes me feel
secure, although I am sure this is misguided.

undine said...

Isn't it funny that they can make us feel more secure? They really do, though. I'm glad someone else feels the same way.