How I Spent My Tuesday Morning

When I’d visited precinct NC07 during primary season, I was barely even there. I’d step inside, cast my vote and leave. But today is everybody’s election day, so nothing is as usual. The plan was to arrive early and camp out in the morning cold, clad in a comfortable hoodie and accompanied by coffee and a good book. Georgia’s weather system had other plans, so our line formed just outside the elementary school in a unseasonably thick mist of humidity and temperatures too low for autumn to claim. I still had my coffee and my book, but the sweatshirt had to stay in the car.

I’d never gone to the polls with anyone else. As far back as I can remember — 1992 was my first election, I believe — it has always been a solitary activity. I spent my waiting in 2000 with a copy of Hamlet and a pen, marking passages for judicious cuts in an upcoming production. But this year, I had my wife at my side. We both had our own books and didn’t say much, mostly out of respect for our fellow voters, but it was comforting to have someone there that could relate to my reasons for voting. And as the morning would reveal, that same person can provide a much needed calm.

I’ve never been good at those guess-how-many-in-the-jar games, so don’t look to me to give an accurate crowd estimate. If I had to guess, I’d say there were twenty folks between the two of us and the door, then a rambling line snaked through the lobby, down a hall to the right about 30 yards, back up the hall and across, then into the school cafeteria. The primaries were held on a closed-off auditorium stage, but today’s accommodations were much larger. Some of our outdoor neighbors left the line to fetch lawn chairs from the car. I just had a cup and a book.

If the humidity of the outdoors wasn’t enough, the surprising lack of air conditioning was almost too much. For a minute, we looked at each other and wondered if this was some kind of voter intimidation tactic. But seeing as nobody has proven a propensity for republicans to sweat more or less than democrats, we dismissed it as just an understandable (and uncomfortable) attempt to save education money through climate control.

Time passed quickly enough. We’d parked at the law offices nearby around 6:45am and found ourselves just outside the cafeteria an hour or so later. Not bad, considering the hours of waiting experienced by advance voters just last week. A nice poll worker had already approached us and checked our IDs against her list of eligible voters. I was there. My wife was there. All was well. So I was surprised at the lukewarm welcome I received once I approached the first table.

See, my driver’s license doesn’t match my current address. This is a fault that is all my own, I will freely admit. I just look at it and think, “Hey, this doesn’t expire until 2006, and the photo is pretty good, so why mess up a good thing?” And furthermore, my driver’s license had gained me access to all of this year’s primaries with very little explanation. My voter registration matches my current location, and that is all that really matters, right? Wrong. When challenged by a rather brusque poll worker, I presented my voter registration card as evidence of my legitimacy. “Oh, that doesn’t matter, you know,” he said. “Lot’s of people think those cards are good enough, but they’re not.” What? But, sir, I’ve never had problems like this before and I voted in the primaries. “With this driver’s license?!?,” he asked over the rims of his eyeglasses. Yes, sir. “Well, that shouldn’t of worked at all.”

Here is where the calming presence of my wife kept me from becoming a feature on this evening’s local news. Area Alpharettan Loses Mind, Causes Fracas At The Polls!

Before I could say something derogatory about this poll worker’s ancestry or progeny, he pulled out a yellow form and told me to fill it out for the poll manager to sign. Will this get me a real ballot? I will not accept a provisional ballot, sir, because … “Yes, you’ll get to vote, don’t you worry. Just have that fellow over there in the pale shirt sign this and you’ll be fine.”

After one more explanation to another bespectacled man, two further lines and an issued Diebold card later, I was able to vote. I checked off my choices, considered incumbents that ran unchallenged and voted neither way on a couple of measures about which I knew very little. With a slight delay, the card popped out and I traded it in for my peachy “I’m A Georgia Voter” sticker.

Aside from an inconvenience of my own making, there were no issues of note. Nobody glanced askance, questioning my viability from a partisan perspective. If there were any attorneys in my midst, they were well-camoflaged among my fellow North Fultonians. Nobody was campaigning within 150 yards, though a weak case might’ve been made for a few bumper-stickered cars parked against the sidewalk. All in all, it was just a large cup of coffee, under two hours of standing, three chapters of a novel and one very important ballot.

So how was it for the rest of you?

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