November 2, 2004
Election Report from Tennessee
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
The hills have suffered four years of drought and fire. But when it finally rains, you get landslides.
This morning, I arrived at the polls at 7:30. It was raining, but there was already a line out the door, people standing under umbrellas, more people walking toward the school, cars parked (and stuck) in the mud along Holmes Road, and a wrecker backing up to pull someone out. I couldn't find a place to park. Cars were parked along both sides of the streets in all directions for a quarter of a mile. The school buses were having trouble getting in and dropping the kids off.
As I took my place at the end of a long line, buses began to line up along the curb beside us, and the windows of the buses were filled with curious, one might even say baffled children. One kid knocked on her window and mouthed something at me. At first, I couldn't understand what she was trying to say, so she tried again, "Are you voting for Kerry?"
As an aside, my wife went to vote after I got home, and while there she spoke to one of the teachers, who told her that they held a mock election at the school yesterday - Results: Kerry 79%, Bush 21%.
I live in a predominantly black middle class neighborhood. I estimate that there were about 70 people in the line outside when I arrived. There were another 70 or 80 inside by the time I got to the door. I estimate the turnout to be approximately 95% African American. No one was complaining about the line. No one even looked unhappy. No one looked impatient. They were just there, doing their jobs. If anyone had a look, it was the three or four white guys (other than me) who looked positively bewildered. I have never waited in a line at this precinct until today. In every other election, I have parked by the front door, walked in, signed my name, voted, and walked out. But not today.
The poll workers were doing an excellent job and the line moved at a good pace. They seemed well-trained and not at all flustered by the turn-out. The two people in line in front of me weren't on the rolls, but the poll worker knew exactly what to do, sent them to another table where they could verify that they were registered to vote, and they did it. When I was inside, I didn't see anyone walk away without voting. When I was outside, I didn't see anyone turn away at the size of the line or get out of line and leave without voting.
I also didn't see anyone monitoring the polls or challenging any voters. In fact, there weren't any people from either campaign at the polling station. There weren't even any political signs by the road. Which really pissed me off because it's like the Democrats aren't even trying. Here they have this huge turnout of African American voters and they don't even come out to support or encourage or anything. Maybe after they see the numbers this year, they'll start paying attention.
Oh, but the best part was, I didn't have to vote on a Diebold machine. During early voting, everyone had to use Diebold machines, and I was afraid that they had made the change county wide. But at my precinct, we still had the good old reliable machines that we've always had.
So when I left, the line had dwindled somewhat, maybe 30 people standing outside. As I walked to my car, a man passed me and said hello. I said, that's one line I didn't mind standing in. He laughed and said, "Let's hope everyone feels the same way."
I drove home and switched off with my wife, taking care of the kids while she went to vote. When she returned, she said the line was long again, but everything went smoothly.
It was a beautiful thing, seeing all those people standing there in the rain waiting to vote. It was a beautiful thing, seeing all those kids staring at us in wonder, the lesson from yesterday's mock election reinforced by seeing their parents and neighbors standing in line to participate in the real thing. And everyone in line was watching the kids, too. I don't know what they were thinking, but I was thinking, that's who I'm voting for. I'm voting for them. I'm voting for their future.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
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