by Anna Arnett
My headlights picked up Forest, our poll inspector, grinning as he tugged a sign into place.
"Good morning, Anna. There's already a crowd assembling. Some were here before I came at 4:45."
And there they were. I gathered my day's supplies -- food for three meals, goodies to share, my knitting and a book (just in case). My watch let me know it was only 5:15, yet in the darkness I estimated at least a couple dozen adults, some sitting along the low planter fence, others
chatting comfortably. A youngish man near the door cheerfully opened it for me, but knew better than try to come in. After all, the polls would not be opened for another forty-five minutes.
We kept busy with last-minute details, and I felt my throat tighten as I raised my arm to the square and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States and carry out my duties at the polls, then signed my name in affirmation. What a privilege. I may fret and stew over the way campaigns are run, and over various faults in all of us who serve, but, oh how grateful I am for our God-given constitution.
For the first three and a half hours from the time I opened the door and fulfilled the first half of my only specific duty as a marshall, that of announcing those superfluous words that the polls were now open, voters kept steadily coming in.
Forest, bless his heart, took measures. "Anna, would you take an extra poll list and stand a ways down the line and find each one's line number? I think it would speed it up a little." So I did.
Ours was a small polling district with only about a couple thousand registered voters, so we had only six workers--just two clerks to identify, get signatures, make a written poll list. These two women worked smoothly and efficiently, but agreed that looking for a number rather than a name speeded things up considerably. Besides, for me it was fun. I could also redirect the ones who were at the wrong polling place, etc. I hardly felt tired the first three hours, but then I suddenly felt a great ache through my back and shoulders, and the bottoms of my feet started stinging. Yet every time somebody walked through the door, another was right behind. So, I kept on. Half an hour later I rejoiced to see an empty door. My task was done -- at least for a while.
From then on until closing, there was not one second that there was not at least one voter voting, and not over a minute between voters coming in, until well after five. Then, to our surprise, the space between lengthened, and only a few came during the last half hour. I seemed to be talking to myself when I walked outside to announce the polls would close in half a hour--five minites--one minute--and again that the polls were closed.
In short order we worked together to count up, pack up, straighten up, etc. I was the first to leave, because Forest assigned me to take the 'pink bubble pack' containing the print-out tape to the gathering place at the Chandler Municipal Court. Forest would bring the almost full containers of provisional and early ballots (including mine) and other important data later. The bulky paraphanalia would be picked up the next day.
So here you have a listing of what it's like for this one woman to work at this one poll. I came home wishing for a massage therapist, but happy and grateful for the privilege of serving. I'd do it for free, but my name still went on the payroll. I'd never do it for a living, but it's real living when I'm doing it.
I'm still tired and achey today, and my body seems to demand a vacation, but that's all right. I've puttered around and procrastinated, and finally pushed myself to the computer.
The election is over, the numbers are in, the majority of voters decided, and we get to live with the results. We have checks and balances, and a great constitution. We always have hope as long as we choose as individuals, communities, counties, states, and as a nation to commit ourselves to do our best. Each one of us touches somebody else, and the higher and brighter our example, the farther that influence reaches. We need not worry over what another does (though we seek and find their strengths). We don't even have to agonize about being innovative. We simply need to keep our actions and words--spoken and written--uplifting. (Well, sometimes I suppose that IS innovative.)
Does all this sound like platitudes? Not to me. There are basic truths we simply HAVE to come back to, to rely on, and to keep. I'm grateful to be an American, and with all you I repeat the words Irving Berlin wrote and we all sing--and pray; "God Bless America."