Once again it’s Election Day here in America, the taut finale to one of the worst seasons our political showrunners have written for us to date. When I began typing this shortly after a new episode of Chopped Junior ended, Twitter was having itself a series of roiling meltdowns as everyone insisted on paying too much attention to the early returns even though some states won’t be finished tabulating or even voting for the next several hours. That’s setting aside any pending conflict resolutions or triple-overtime recounts for those neck-and-neck battleground states where the Big Two are finding their supposedly easy leads in the Presidential race thwarted by votes siphoned away by third-party candidates and repelled away by their own morally compromised candidates and constituents.
Tonight promises not to be pretty or short or 100% satisfying to many. Whatever Wednesday brings, it won’t be peace and harmony and new treaties signed among families torn apart by this deep psychological schism. It won’t be a prelude to a new utopia. It won’t be a celebration of which pollsters got everything or anything right. I’m betting it won’t be fun.
Last I checked, some of my candidates were winning; some, not so much. (Disclaimer: moments subject to change without notice.) Here in Indiana, we saw many, many people taking advantage of early-voting options that, traditionally speaking, were meant to extend opportunities to voters who wouldn’t be able to participate in Election Day on the day of. Early voting wasn’t meant as a consumer convenience. Too many voters panicked about the predictions of extra-long lines, thought they’d beat the rush, and instead created a new, earlier rush. Up in Tippecanoe County last Saturday, my son and I saw an early-voting line at a grocery line that was fifty people deep, and was no shorter when we left half an hour later. Here in Marion County, only one location was open for early voting, at our City-County Building downtown. Other Hoosiers I follow online reported wait times on Sunday of 100-120 minutes in the one line that ran two or three blocks long, all because of dread and/or paranoia about what might happen if they’d waited till today.
My wife and I each did our part today because that’s how we roll with our holidays. We don’t do Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving, we don’t celebrate Christmas in October when the decorations go on sale, and we don’t believe in Election Week or Election Month. She’s a morning person and I’m an evening person, so we voted on different shifts, but we don’t vote till Election Day. Otherwise it ends up another major American holiday ruined by expanding too far out of bounds.
Also, far more polls are open on Election Day than on Election Day Eve or even Election Day Eve Eve. Anne volunteered for poll duty for several years and is knows firsthand (a) the pay is lousy unless you’re taking a day off from a minimum-wage job to do that instead, in which case it’s gravy; and (b) no way are you gonna get all Election Day volunteers to work more than a single 12-hour shift for said lousy pay at the expense of their day jobs, many of whose bosses aren’t about to give them that much time off.
Our local precinct voting HQ is open every Election Day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. This was the scene when Anne arrived at the polls around 6:40 a.m.:
Too many like-minded citizens trying to avoid gridlock joined forces to make their own inadvertent gridlock instead. In all she was there 45 minutes — better than some areas reported, especially a number of unfortunately troublesome precincts I read about in other cities and states. Anyone who thinks voter suppression is a morally, ethically, and spiritually justifiable tool to wield should be ashamed of being so insecure about their own candidates’ chances of winning fairly. Nothing says “I believe in my leaders!” quite like an added, implied sentiment, “Too bad you’re not good enough to win on your own merits.”
While Anne was voting and seriously regretting her options before she went to work, I was already at work so I could leave early and go do the same in mid-afternoon. This was the scene when I arrived at the polls at exactly 3:53 p.m.:
I was voter #485 in our precinct, a fairly diverse one by suburban Indianapolis standards. I was in and out in seven minutes flat.
I don’t think it’s a new record for me. Some past primaries have only have two or three races to cover. This year we had sixteen races and propositions to consider on the ballot, only two of them uncontested. I would’ve been done even sooner if the two volunteers at my precinct’s check-in table hadn’t been senior citizens struggling to stay peppy at the end of their tenth hour on duty. But I understood and was patient while I waited for their reflexes to respond to each new thought of movement. I know from long days, but I can’t imagine all the stresses they endured to help make this critical part of the American democratic process happen, especially the part where I wasn’t wasting any part of my weekend trapped in a two-hour line.
Timing is key, in voting and in so many other areas of life. By the time I stop typing this, more votes will have been counted, more states will have been called, more Twitter users will have set their own hair on fire to distract themselves from assorted headline disappointments, and more Facebook users will be in bed and missing the excruciatingly superfluous play-by-play. I’ve been offline the past eighty minutes and am now kind of afraid what I’ll see after I hit “Publish” and switch browser tabs to peek.
I do anticipate at least two joyous developments coming right up: no more political ads stuffing our mailbox and trashcans, and no more political commercials being run six thousand times every morning and during Jepoardy! There’s my minimal silver lining among the storm clouds looming on the American horizon, no matter how or when tonight ends.