Voting in District 12

By: Patricia Chadwick

For decades, my husband and I have been early morning voters at the North Mianus School in Old Greenwich. The only time we ever experienced a wait of more than a minute or two was in the mid-term election in 2018, and I wrote about it as a good sign that the citizenry was involved.
We love voting in person, and for years we’d bring our children with us to let them feel involved in the process. There’s something very empowering about voting, even if the outcome is not what one was hoping for. At least one had a say in the matter.

This year, my husband and I discussed the best time to vote. We expected that the turnout would be far greater than normal, but with so many people choosing to use mail-in ballots, maybe the foot traffic would be down. Or maybe with so many people working from home because of the pandemic, the voting pattern would be more evenly distributed throughout the day.

“I’m going to get there early to beat the traffic,” I said, while my husband thought the afternoon might be a quieter time. So I was up at 5am (it felt like 6am since Daylight Saving time ended only two days ago), showered and dressed for the day, leaving my husband still asleep. I checked the temperature – it was 37! Sure hope there’s no line, I thought. By 5:40, I was heading out of the house for the one-mile drive to the school, dressed in a down jacket and earmuffs, but without gloves. As I came to make a left at the bottom of the hill, two cars were approaching and turned on to the same street.

“I bet I know where they’re going” I thought and how right I was. The school parking lot was nearly full and the line of would-be voters stretched from the not-as-yet-open door down the full length of the lot. I found one of the last parking places and made my way in the darkness to the end of the line. The time was 5:48a.m. I checked the temperature on my cell phone – it was still 37 degrees. HMMM – 12 minutes before the doors opened, but how long will it take to get to the front of the line. Why didn’t I wear gloves?

I pulled out my cell phone and searched for the daily Sudoku – it took me just five minutes to do the puzzle. I limit myself to one a day and this one was far too easy. But those five minutes of exposure had turned my fingers to icicles. So I stuck my hands in my pockets and started thinking about things to warm me up.
How lucky that I’m not voting in Minnesota or Wisconsin or Montana. I felt better, and then the line began to move. By the time a got to the door, it was 6:21am, a thirty-three-minute crawl that increasingly felt like a pilgrimage to a holy place, and in a way it was. The school basketball gymnasium was a sanctuary of sorts – a place where I could play my part, small as it was, in our democracy.

Once inside the warmth of the school building, the routine was as it has been for as long as I can remember. The same people who’ve been working the polls for years were cheerful and helpful. Plexiglas screens and no common pens were the only exceptions to the past. Oh, and there were no stickers to tell the world I had voted! I blame that on COVID-19.

As I exited the hall, I checked out the line of citizens waiting for their turn to vote. It had grown measurably, now wending past two sides of the parking lot and up the street. That seemingly endless line of masked women and men had but one mission – to participate in the American democratic process by casting their vote. I wondered how many of them would vote as I had and how many would be voting the other way.

Despite a campaign season that undoubtedly has been the most divisive and stressful that any of us can remember, there was not a thread of animus among the voters in the interminable line I was part of this morning. It was impossible to tell who was voting Democratic and who was voting Republican and that was good. The atmosphere was almost reverent and that’s the way it should be.

Like most Americans (I believe), I will be glued to the television with my family all evening and maybe well into the night or even the wee hours of tomorrow. While the Presidential election is the most electric on a national scale, there are numerous neck and neck races for House and Senate seats. It’s a good night for a pizza delivery, a fire in the fireplace, some popcorn and a large screen TV.

But on the serious side, the tension hanging over this election is worrying. It’s up to each of the candidates, particularly at the Presidential level, to convince their followers to accept the outcome without violence.
I hope and pray that will take place.