I am writing this on Tuesday morning. Earlier today I walked across the street to vote.* Those of you who have hung around here on the Margins know how much I love to vote, but I approached the polls today with a serious lack of enthusiasm. The day was cold and wet and the choices on the ballot were uninspiring. It was clear watching from my office window** that I was not the only unenthusiastic voter in the 4th ward. Instead of the usual mass of poll watchers lining the sidewalk, there was one lone man in a clear plastic poncho. Voters came one at a time, with long gaps in between.
I sucked it up and headed out, because voting is important. (Normally I would say thrilling, but I wasn’t feeling it.)
The man in the clear poncho met me on the sidewalk at the appropriate distance from the polling place door. I was pleased to be able to tell him that I planned to vote for his candidate and told him how impressed I was that he was out in what was really unpleasant weather.
He smiled. “I’ve been here since 5:30.”
I walked into the school auditorium feeling a little better because one man cared enough about local politics to stand in the rain at 5:30 in the morning talking to voters.
Once inside, there was no energy in the room. I was the only voter. The election judges were drooping. (In fact, the woman next to the machine you feed the ballots into was asleep.) I voted: two quick marks, one for mayor and one for alderman. When I handed my ballot sleeve and marker back to the election judge, he said, almost by rote, “Thank you for voting.”
Back in the days when I lived in a predominately Black neighborhood, the right answer to that was “It’s a privilege.” I decided to go for it.
“It’s a privilege,” I said and smiled. I felt better even as I said it.
Three election judges sat up straight and smiled back. “Yes, it is,” one of them one of them said, with an emphatic nod. “It surely is.”
I bopped back across the street, happier than when I walked out the door. Because voting is a privilege. One worth defending.
* Yes, my polling place is directly across from my front door.
**Again, right across from the polling place