They came steadily. A couple or one person would appear at the door minute by minute. In the early morning, at lunch or after dinner, they came in bunches. There are 1100 registered voters in this precinct of Warwick Township. It is overwhelmingly Republican. Almost ½ of them appeared today, up from 18% for the 2012 Primary.
Very few smiled as they walked to the registrar’s table — they might have been coming from work, going to work, rushing over during a lunch break. No one was unpleasant, but some said, without prompting, that they had only filled in a portion of their ballot. A few, trying to look fierce or who were genuinely frustrated, spoke about the nation “going to Hell.” Most voters were serious, but the apocalypse did not seem to be on the minds of many.
As happened when I served on a jury, I felt again that respect for the ordinary person trying to make sense of things. The man in charge of this precinct did everything in his power to ensure that each voter had privacy and was able to cast a vote.
It felt like a reunion of sorts — neighbors who smile and say hello and stop to share the news. Lots of parents of kids I had taught and more than a few of the kids themselves — not kids, men and women (the custom of years now finished hangs on).
In November an 85 to 90% turn-out is expected. All day and into the evening, the ranks will form, and inside citizens will be greeted with an orderly process. The lines will shuffle along. Democracy can be dull. That in itself is good. Men with guns do not hover near the ballot-machine.
Voter suppression laws have done their awful work in too many states. Pennsylvania has its own, milder version (milder than Texas or Wisconsin). A plague on all of them. Watch Americans file in to change the dimensions of power peacefully, and you too will be furious with those who work to make voting more difficult or bureaucratic or who work to stifle the ability to vote of those with whom they may disagree. Voting gathers a community. It gives it coherence. It creates a space the precise opposite of ones that revolution (and tyranny) create.
The months until November are going to be filled with awful words and lies. *Rebecca Traister wrote that between now and the election “many of us will put one hand on the safety rail, open our mouths in a silent scream and just try to hang on….” But come November 8 we may collect quietly and make our choice. In an increasingly cynical nation, that is an unqualified good.
*Rebecca Traister, New York Times Book Review, March 20, 2016
I worked at the Polls for the Primary and will do so on November 8.