Inspiration at the election front line

Joe Nathan
Education Columnist

What did you learn, standing in line to vote? For several parents who brought their kids, and with whom I stood, it was “well worth the wait.” But before saying any more, here are some reflections from my wife, JoAnn, who was an election judge.

“It didn’t matter what political party you support. Watching women with one, two, sometimes three kids manage to fill out a ballot, is inspiring. Seeing citizens in wheelchairs, on crutches, with visual impairments, with hearing impairments wanting to vote, is inspiring. Elderly voters who have been voting for 70 years and ‘aren’t going to stop now,’ is inspiring. Two judges bringing a ballot to a woman in a car, for her curb-side voting, since she can’t get out of the vehicle, is inspiring. People whose arthritis is so painful they have to sign their name on the roster using two hands, is inspiring. Busy people who wait in lines for a long, long time, well you know. We had hundreds of people register in our precinct yesterday. We had just about every color, culture and class you can think of. Reciting an oath to uphold the Constitution at 6 a.m. – what a country! We are blessed.”

After posting this online, several people responded. A man named Alan wrote that Minnesota’s process was “noticeably better than I’ve seen elsewhere.”  Among other reasons he cited were:

• Paper ballots give more confidence in the integrity of the system, overall.

• No candidates or their representatives pushing literature outside the polling place

• No slimeballs in Klan robes intimidating people outside the polling place (you think I am joking? Check out Cecil County, Md.)

• Same-day registration, the vouching process, and so on makes it easier to vote than in many other places

• Poll workers courteous, helpful, and welcoming.

Another person told me, “I’m always glad to see families bringing children to the polls.  Sometimes they get restless, so it’s a good idea to bring a few books to read if there’s a wait.  But I think it’s a powerful, positive lesson that voting is important, and precious.”

I couldn’t agree more. I stopped by our polling place a couple of times to drop off food for the judges.  People were patient and positive. They were eager young people, voting for the first time, and elders, including one who proudly proclaimed, “I’ve lived here 62 years, and I voted every time. ”

I watched a man on crutches, slowly, painfully move toward check-in. The judge smiled and said, “Thanks for coming.” The man responded, “Wouldn’t miss it.” And he smiled, “Legs don’t work so well, but up here (pointing to his head) is fine!”

Like that man’s legs, our country does not always “work so well, but allowing and encouraging people to vote, without intimidation or fear, that’s precious, often under-appreciated, and ultimately, remarkable. Thanks to the families that brought their kids to see it.

And thanks to each of you who didn’t just complain, but completed the voting process. Each of us agrees, and disagrees with some of the election results. Regardless, as my wife wrote, “What a country. We are blessed.”

Joe Nathan has voted for more than 40 years. He directs the Center for School Change and welcomes reactions, Joe@centerforschoolchange.org

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