In the last week I’ve received at least five voice mails from the likes of P-Diddy, Bill Clinton and Spike Lee reminding me to rock the vote or die. I feel a little special this election, perhaps because I am a sought-after adult who out of apathy or laziness didn’t vote in the last election. Or perhaps it’s because I was excited about the election this year; I even put a sticker for my candidate on my car the other day. I’m also in Wisconsin, one of a few highly contested “swing” states critical to both party’s campaigns. It seems like Bush, Cheney, Kerry, Edwards or their spouses have been in Wisconsin just about every day for two months. Both candidates have tried to woo us young, previously disinterested voters. I have done my homework, thought about my values and the issues important to me and made an educated decision.
So, I had the day off and went to vote around 10:00 am, already hearing reports that the polls were unusually crowded and everyone was paranoid about voter fraud and voter suppression. In Milwaukee: The tires of 20 GOP-rented vans to be used to transport voters to the polls today were slashed overnight. My polling place, set to open as expected at 7:00 am, was delayed by an hour when election officials didn’t have the proper keys to start the ballot machine. Fifteen polling places ran out of ballots around 7:00 pm when police turned couriers were dispatched from city hall to avoid shortages.
When I arrived at the local middle school to cast my vote there was an irritated man in line complaining that he arrived at 7:00 am this morning, waited 45 minutes before heading to work, and was now waiting in line again to vote. My voting happens in the school’s dimly lit but beautiful old theater. Unfortunately the two individuals managing the lists of names were at least 80-years-old and could barely understand the names of my diverse neighbors much less read their sheets because of the bad light. It was busy but mostly it was just slow. Everyone waited in one line and if you needed to register you simply held up others who could have passed ahead and voted. I registered at the primary a few months ago with my current address and my name was not in the books today. Before leaving the house I had so much confidence that I wouldn’t have a problem today that only out of sheer luck did I have a check I was about to deposit in my purse with my correct address on it. I had to re-register, so had I not had that check I would have had to return. At that point, I might have given up, who knows. Thankfully it didn’t come to that.
After voting I felt good. I was amazed at how many people seemed to be heading to vote. There were lines all day which most people agree is extremely uncommon. I was out and about running errands the rest of the day, watching volunteers stand on overpass bridges waving their candidates’ signs and staring as a passing airplane pulled an enormous pro-life banner complete with pictures of what was apparently a 10-week old dead fetus (I am unfortunately not kidding about that one).
It’s 8:30 pm central standard time and I’m monitoring the news. So far Bush leads Kerry with several swing states still too close to count. I’m still rooting for my underdog. Wisconsin is important, my vote is important, it’s a good day to be a U.S. citizen.