On The Day

Obviously, Hurricane Sandy failed to blow us away. (We didn’t even lose power – it rated slightly more exciting than Irene, much less than various other natural disasters.) The man-made perfect storm that is the US Presidential Elections is, however, less avoidable, and today’s the day. I have friends coming over and a lot of alcohol stockpiled. It’s going to be a long night, either way.

The shenanigans surrounding Americans actually getting to the polls to cast their vote are many and varied – check out Charlie Pierce’s blog for the details on some of them – but Massachusetts is as far from being a swing state as you can get, dyed-in-the-wool blue ever since the Democrats and Republicans settled into their current political conformations, and voting here is a little less fraught. A few people in our department who voted early reported very long lines and parking spaces running out – my guess would be turnout fueled by Elizabeth Warren and her Senate campaign, she’s very popular in these college-town parts – but my friends didn’t go vote until mid-afternoon, when it seemed likely to have calmed down, so I tagged along to see how they did the voting thing around here, and maybe take some pictures. (Which is legal in Massachusetts, though not everywhere – and I made very sure to explain to everyone I spoke to that I was a foreign student interested in seeing American democracy at work.)

I'm told that it's usual for polling places to have a forest of signs right up until the legally-mandated boundary, but this one just had two lonely Warren signs and one for some local position no-one cares about.


The entrance to the schoolroom where voting was taking place was oddly obscure, but we found it eventually. (I think the lines earlier were long enough they didn't need lots of directions; it wasn't so by 3pm.)


Inside, the walls were lined with copies of the actual ballot paper for people to study as they waited - given the number of options, a sensible move, although most of the state and local ones were unopposed. (And this was a brief, two-page ballot - they can run up to seven or ten, with enough local positions and ballot questions/referenda.)

The line was relatively short, maybe ten or fifteen people – they were moving them through efficiently, which relieved my friend Kelley, born and taught to vote in Ohio. She’d brought three forms of ID, her voter registration letter, and an American flag, just in case. (Okay, one of the three.)

First you had to give your name and address...


Then everyone politely pretended they couldn't see each other while they voted...

...then you queued again to be crossed off the list as having voted, and feed your ballot to the vote-reading machine.

The vote-reading machine, up close. Talk about your black box.

It was all extremely civilised, polite, and friendly; after all the shouting and punditry and accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression and so on and so forth, it was a very positive experience to see people (middle-class white voters in a college town, admittedly) just getting on with casting their vote for their chosen candidates. Whoever they may be.

(Just, please, please, please don’t let it be Romney.)

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One Response to On The Day

  1. Rose says:

    Yipee yipee – why is it so important to me? Choice for women of course- and humanity, tolerance , inclusiveness and the fact that what happens in America somehow affects the rest of the world. To see the president stand up and say you can make it in America if you are gay or straight just says it all!

    So funny to see in polling booths, we are so much more uptight in NZ. And yet the school context for voting is so familiar.

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