I became a political creature in my first presidential election, which was 1996, and was a Clinton year. When Bush was elected in 2000, I began to think the system may be broken, and I began to work with those who would fight to protect it. In 2004 I poll watched for FairVote, spending 14 hours in the cold insuring each challenged voter got to cast a provisional ballot, only to see no one count their votes. I assisted attorney’s in suing on behalf of disenfranchised voters in various states in the hopes that some one would be made accountable for the incomprehensible voter suppression and interference I saw around my country. (Such as people printing INS t-shirts and hanging around outside heavily latino polling places.)
Still, the system failed and l began to believe it might not ever work. How could anyone get the apathetic America to get off their couches and vote?
Then Hillary ran for office, and I thought, maybe, just maybe I could be excited about a campaign again. After all, Hill was a great candidate, and the first serious female contender for the presidential candidate. I was sad when she didn’t get the candidacy, though I supported Obama as soon as he did. (As only amnesia would have made me support a republican after the past eight years, that and my family being held hostage by vote influencing thugs.)
Yesterday I spent 14 hours in a polling place with other dems and pubs, insuring every voter who entered was allowed to cast a vote, or sent to the right place, or given a provisional ballot. There weren’t any voters challenged, no one tried to suppress the vote, and I saw some amazing things. They restored my faith in our political system. Though I still feared an inevitable letdown when voting machines would fail or lines would be too long to allow people to cast their votes.
I saw women, many of them, coming in with all their children in tow, preparing to brave long lines with multiple kids to cast their votes. (Luckily we didn’t have any lines and we have a volunteer who made hundreds of origami cranes to hand out to the kids.) I saw young voters, newly 18 with registration cards in hand, coming to make a choice for the first time. I saw grandmothers and grandfathers casting their vote for the first time, bringing their children and grandchildren, all recently registered, to cast a vote and make a statement. They all asked intelligent questions about the ballot initiatives, requested sample ballots, and spent 20 minutes to half an hour reading over each ballot choice before casting their vote.
I saw a pregnant woman deliver her mail in ballot on the way to delivering her baby.
I saw a voter who had failed to sign the pollbook in the morning on his way to work come all the way back from Fort Collins to put his signature down so his vote would be counted. (Luckily one of the election judges knew him and way able to call and tell him he had missed that crucial step.)
My election judges worked hard. They asked me and the republican poll watcher what our interpretations of the voting rules were, talked over disagreements, called for help when they needed it, and worked together to get our voters a ballot. They called the county clerk for over half of the voters whose registrations were missing from the poll books. The voters waited patiently for resolution, happy to sit for an hour while we sat on hold, just wanting to cast their vote.
When I came home, after a grueling but wonderful day, to discover that the system had actually worked, that there weren’t any suspicious reasons for a huge disparity in the exit polls and the elected candidate, I started to tear up. When I realized Obama won, I cried with disbelief and hope, and when I saw how much he won, how many people he inspired to vote, I cried with joy. Barack Obama has organized the American community and reminded us how it is supposed to work. We aren’t supposed to leave voting to the few, we are supposed to speak with millions of voices, from all areas of our nation’s demographics. We are a nation of the people, all the people.
He was not my first choice for president, but he is the best choice. This man can heal us, he can make us remember who we are, and he can bring out the beautiful in our America. I do not believe any other candidate could have done what he has done. I am proud to call him my president.