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November 4, 2008

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I didn’t think today would feel like this.

My polling place was a dream. Eva’s Hawaiian Cafe on Clement St. was pressed into service for democracy this morning. Everyone should vote in a cafe. Most of us skipped the booths and sat at tables in ones and twos.

I got there at 7:12 a.m. As the election volunteer was looking me up on her list, I was seized with an irrational fear: What if I’m not there? I know, I know, they would have let me vote anyway. But I couldn’t shake it: I moved pretty recently. What if I messed up the paperwork?

Seriously, in the eight seconds it took her to flip to the letter ‘S’, I had a complete mini freak-out. I kept saying to myself:

I need to be able to vote for this man.

I need to be able to vote for this man.

I need to be able to vote for this man.

I smiled at my own weirdness as I filled out my ballot.

Then, five minutes later, in the car on the way to work, I started to cry. I have no idea why. How many people did exactly the same thing this morning? Millions? It must be millions — a fellowship of wet-eyed citizens waiting at stoplights.

This man. His grandmother! This man. All of us.

I didn’t think today would feel like this. Partially it’s that I’ve seen the polls; I know what’s happening; I know what’s about to happen. It’s exciting. But it’s something else too, something I can’t yet explain.

There is such a quiet force to the way we vote. It’s glacial.

And today, we are on the move.

What was your morning like?

Posted November 4, 2008 at 8:00 | Comments (22) | Permasnark
File under: Society/Culture


i'm so excited i cannot even handle myself. my hands were shaking the whole time, i double and triple checked my choice for president. making plans to go to grant park tonight! cannot possible focus on work right now ...

Makes me almost wish I hadn't gone for convenience over solidarity by mailing in my vote. Almost. :)

Convenient that the sun came out in SF today.

Same same same. When they flipped through and didn't find me in the M's I panicked. (I guess "Brunow Miner" is a "B" to them) Before I even got that far there were several times my face curled up into almost tears. I'm sure if I'd had the privacy of my own car it would have been all over. I'm saving those happy tears for tonight though.

Posted by: Laura Brunow Miner on November 4, 2008 at 08:53 AM

woke up this morning with a silly idea that I slept through Tuesday, but I figured I wouldn't be this tired if that were the case. I got ready and walked the two blocks to my polling place, then I stood in line for twenty minutes, while thinking "WOOOOOOOOOO!" the whole time. I got my ballot and filled in those bubbles more carefully than I had since taking the SATs and I was out before thirty minutes were up. And now I'm walking to work, writing this out on my phone.
The whole time it felt like this was the first time I was voting. It's certainly the most important, and now I've done my part!

My wife and I took the girls to the polls this morning, as we usually do. We arrived a few minutes after the polls opened at seven 'o' clock, and there was already a substantial line. We vote in all the primaries, so I'm used to being ballot number 5 or 6. This morning I was ballot 122. There were a number of other parents with children there, most even younger than ours.

We were in line for about an hour and a half, and the girls were mostly good, but understandably restless. We didn't expect the line to be so long, so we didn't bring anything for them to do. (I even wished that I had brought a book, but as time passed, I realized it wouldn't have done much good. Entertaining myself isn't really a priority in a situation like that compared to entertaining my daughters.)

I voted fairly quickly by the time I got my hands on the ballot, and only my conscience kept me from filling out the "straight party ballot" choice. It would have been faster, but the Ingham County Prosecutor needs to go.

I'm not misty about Obama, but then I never was. I'm optimistic, but I largely don't believe in a politics of enthusiasm and agreement. I'm ready to support the president where he's right, and fight him where he's wrong. I relish the thought of doing more supporting and less fighting, but nothing is certain until all the votes are counted.

In all honesty, since Michigan went blue in the last two elections, and is likely to do so again this time, I'm a bit more worried about the local Transportation Authority millage. If it fails, bus service will be reduced. Public transportation is good for the people and good for business. I'm hoping that Lansing realizes that.

I woke up three times before my alarm this morning because I was so worried about oversleeping and not having time to vote.

I actually expected to feel more emotional than I do; maybe it just hasn't caught up to me yet.

I haven't voted yet! I had to be at school by 7; I will vote in the afternoon. During the primary I went to the wrong place and then my polling place was briefly out of power--I was almost in tears *then*, and now I'm so anxious the freeway will melt again, or a big storm will cause me to not get to the polls. I am so anxious! On the drive in they interviewed a pollworker, and I was so jealous of his being able to take the day off and work the polls. I wish I could do that! I'm supposed to be teaching students about quantum mechanics today--my favorite subject--but I can barely concentrate. I don't think I've been this stressed out since my first day teaching; possibly since my first day of college.

I posed the question to my first-year writing class today: "Should election day be a national holiday?" Several true believers emerged, but a surprising number of skeptics -- influenced, I think, by the small-by-MSU-standards-but-still-alarming riots after the Phillies win.

I never thought of "organized violence" as a possible unintended consequence of an electoral holiday.

At the polls, all was placid. I voted just after two pm, so no lines, but still -- record turnout already. One of the monitors asked me about my son, which was nice (he's famous in this part of Philadelphia), prompting me to ask her whether she'd seen my wife (whom I haven't seen since eight this morning).

I suppose this is teary confession time: I'm not voting.

Any explanation is really just an excuse: I didn't want to register temporarily in Missouri for some pique of conscience that now feels totally abstract and mysterious. There was something mildly wrong to me about weighing my vote against the folks who call this state home, especially since it's a - well, you know. "Battleground state." I'm not a Missourian, I said. In a few months, I'll be back to Minnesota, so I kept my registration there.

I procrastinated on sending in my absentee ballot application, and finally dropped it in the mail a week-and-a-half ago. (Later, I discovered you could fax it.) I called last week to make sure it had been received, and my ballot sent, and they let me know it had been mailed to me on the 29th. So it would be close, but I expected to receive the ballot over the weekend.

Well, it never came. And by yesterday, there was nothing I could do, short of flying to Minnesota (which I considered). I called the Minneapolis election folks to make sure, but nope, I'm screwed.

It's hugely disappointing, but it's my own damn fault. This post was awesome.

Tim, I loved this line:

"One of the monitors asked me about my son, which was nice (he's famous in this part of Philadelphia), prompting me to ask her whether she'd seen my wife (whom I haven't seen since eight this morning)."

Sounds like a novel. Or a great old-timey New Yorker piece.

Matt, you realize that you're going to have to reinvigorate modern public service journalism even more thoroughly than you were already planning to in order to make up for this oversight.

Matt's 21st-century problem sounds like something the founders couldn't have anticipated (or at least didn't anticipate). Only going to live in one state for a few months? Where should one vote? How? Ought we to have a separate national election for President?

It seems to me that after this year, when the mechanisms of our democracy work in gross nearly as well as they were intended to, we might be tempted to put crazy electoral schemes away. We shouldn't.

I also started to cry when I stepped up to place my ballot in the machine. Stepping out into a glorious fall day I held back tears as I thought of the places where voting is not an option, where fear rules. I was grateful for this opportunity. I was a high school student in the 60s and voting for Barack Obama felt like the change we need.

Posted by: Bettyann on November 4, 2008 at 02:20 PM

Matt, I'm so sorry!

I couldn't stop grinning. The best part was signing my name below my parents' and my sisters. The poll worker recognized it! He could say it! It somehow felt symbolic. One child of immigrants voting for another. . .


My ballot arrived this afternoon. I don't know whether to fill it in and frame it, or send it in anyway just to say I did.

Frame it. Keep it.

"I still have my vote for Barack Obama."

Bought and sold.

I didn't cry until I saw his acceptance speech, and I realized that I was fearful of the possibility that something might happen to him now.

I'm gonna pray for our new President, every day. I think I might love you, President Obama.

Hmm... I have no idea how i ended up here...

But it was amazingly poetic how you presented your voting situation.

I personally didnt want a president who allows abortions, and is not completely for what is righteous. I would have liked a president that you didn't need to judge and say was a good man, but one that we know would do everything in his power to do what is right over what benefits the U.S. more.

I hold these issue far too high I suppose, but the truth is I think Obama is a decent person.

But I fear for all of us, America, when we vote based on financial issues, when we vote based what we like, but not what is what we should be doing...


Posted by: ThisFire on November 16, 2008 at 02:11 PM

A bit late this time around, but Matt I don't suppose Missouri works like California, where you can turn an absentee ballot in to any polling place on election day?

Ah, but that probably wouldn't work for a Minnesota absentee ballot in Missouri anyway.

But maybe you could have received your ballot the afternoon of the 4th, THEN flown up to Minnesota to turn it in!

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