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November 20, 2017

The Boring Word About One Precious Vote


May 29, 1985

When I wrote two weeks ago about our trips to the polling places I had no idea I was going to make a trial run in my own voting district on election day afternoon.

This was the first election in which our 18 year old would vote. As we got in the car I had the same sensation I had felt as I watched her go off to her first day of school, her first date and a few of those other special days only parents can understand. That warm feeling quickly left though as she pulled out her voter registration card and said “I vote in ward 4 precinct 3.”

“No, we vote in ward 5 precinct 2,” I patiently explained.

“Ward 4, precinct 3,” she repeated, in the ‘I’m a college student now and know everything’ tone of voice.

However, she showed me the card and sure enough that’s what it said. Assuring her it was just a bureaucratic mix up which would take only a minute to straighten out I drove off to OUR polling place; where, incidentally, I have been voting for the past 21 years.

When we arrived I confidently said Hi to all the workers I have known over the years. Then I told the story of the incorrect registration card.

“Where do YOU live?” asked a woman I have known for 20 years.

Trying to decide what difference that made I replied, “The same house I’ve always lived in.”

“Where does she live,” another lady asked.

“With me,” I stated positive they all knew she was my daughter.

There was a small conference. Files were searched. There was excitement when two cards were found with our name and address until they realized one was mine and one my husband’s. “

You can’t vote here,” was the official word given to my daughter.

My daughter’s face fell as she began to realize she might not get to exercise her right to vote.

But we were given a reprieve. Everyone agreed she should try ward 4. Maybe they would take her. (Maybe they would take her college tuition bill too.)

Off we went in search of ward 4. Since the township formed new voting districts last year it took a little work to determine where ward 4 was. Of course it turned out that ward 4 votes on the other side of town and PennDOT is repairing the road but we finally reached the building.

After wading through the campaign workers outside who handed us another stack of cards, pencils, emery boards, matches, etc. we reached the OFFICIAL polling place.

I didn’t know any of the election workers. I did know the family who was ahead of us to vote. While waiting out turn I discovered this was the second time they had tried to vote that day. Seems the one and only voting machine had been stuck the first time. I had another sinking feeling about the whole day.

Beth explained her problem. “Where do you live,” one woman asked.

She gave her address. “That’s not in ward 4,” they said.

“We know,” I replied. “That’s our problem.”

In the meantime my friend’s mother had been in the voting booth for a long time. “You all right mom?”, she called. No answer, but we could still see her feet so we continued to wait. There was a long pause before the curtains partially opened. Several people tried to move the lever further but to no avail.

There was then a long discussion as to whether the vote had been registered. My friend and her husband voted and each time the machine was checked but no one seemed sure if the votes were being counted.

I could tell by the look on my daughter’s face that she was beginning to doubt if this democratic process of selecting our officials was as great as the history books said. Again the cards were searched. This time they came up with one for Beth. It had the wrong house number but she was going to vote!

Finally it was her turn. She entered the booth and closed the curtain. All I could see were her frayed jeans and grubby tennis shoes. I watched as she went up on tip-toe to reach the levers. Seems voting booths are not designed for those under 5 foot. In not time at all she was using all her strength to push the lever to register her first vote. Low and behold it worked! (I think.)

We left the building proud to know that we had performed our patriotic duty even if Beth had voted for a commissioner who did not represent the district where she lives.

GCB

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