Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dinner on the Governor (or) I Voted!

We arrived at the polls about 10:00am yesterday morning (I was thinking it would be calmest after other adults went to work, but before they had lunch breaks or came home for the day).  I had a carload of kids with me and so when they told me the wait was two hours, I realized this wasn't going to be the year to show them democracy in action.  I needed to come back on my own a little later.  I did try the other polling sites and their waits were longer than the first place I went.

After a day of fun with the kids, C came home from work and was able to stay with them while I headed back to the polling location.

This time, when I got there at 5:22pm, I was told the wait was three or four hours.  This seemed excessive, but I was determined to cast my vote.  The line was already out the door.

(Disclaimer:  I will be posting some cell phone pictures from my time at the polls to give you a visual, but please don't judge me on their quality.  My "dumb"-phone doesn't take great shots and it's all I had to document the whole evening.)

It was already getting cold now that the sun was down and I'd forgotten my sweater -- not thinking I'd be outside for the next hour-plus.  Throughout the evening, I learned that I "forgot" many things when coming to vote this time around that I've never required before.

It took almost 40 minutes when I got to this point.

All the while, I was texting a few people while I was in line.  Among others, I talked to our daughter, S, who was keeping me posted about how everything was going at home.  Suddenly, she told me SSW was at the house!

If you don't remember, SSW and her family moved from here to Phoenix in September and I miss them every single day.  Our families were very close.  She was here on an unplanned visit to take care of some business in town.  I was sad not to be there at the house to greet her and talk with her, but I knew I couldn't leave the line either.  Though I was already feeling tempted.

I also chatted with a couple people standing in line around me.  By the end of this adventure, we'd know a lot about one another and it would almost feel awkward walking away from them without getting their numbers to stay in touch -- but I didn't.  It was a one-night friendship with those folks.

The word among various people was that we were in the shortest line.  I checked with one of the Election workers and he said that he'd heard the same thing.  The other four polling locations were having expected waits of five or six hours.  So I planned to stay put.

That sign had two phone numbers we were supposed to call if we had problems voting.  Many, many people were calling the number while in line -- either to complain about the line or just to have something to do to pass the time.

At about the time I got to this point in the line outside, my phone rang and it was SSW.  She'd come down to the polling location to see me in person!  What an awesome surprise and blessing it was to have her there with me for about an hour.  It's amazing how much catching up we can do in an hour without kids around and with no other distractions really.

She'll probably holler at me for posting this picture of us in line on Election Day, but I'll take my chances.  This was the best gift I got all day (or in several days).  I look worse than she does, so she has nothing to complain about.
She had to go when I still had many hours to go, but I was glad for any amount of time and hugs with my friend while she was in town.  (I love you, SSW!)

Anyway, all the while we were in line, Election workers were handing out bottled water and granola bars to people in line.  I didn't want the raisin granola bars, but I did have two bottles of water over the course of the evening.

Once I'd wound around the line through hallways and the lobby, pizzas began arriving.  I passed on the first round of pizzas because I was still hopeful I'd be home in time for regular food.  I figured they'd probably over exaggerated on their numbers for the wait.

Our governor provided pizzas, granola bars and water bottles for the voters who stuck it out in long lines.

I noticed families who came to the polls together were taking turns in line.  One would hold the place and the others would go outside so kids could run around and play freely for a bit.  Once SSW left me, I didn't really have anyone to hold my place in line (and when she was there, I didn't dare make her save my place and go outside!).  I was glad our kids were home and not in line with me getting bored and frustrated.

The polling place closed at 7pm, so the line was cut off at that point -- but they kept letting everyone in line vote, well after 7:00.

And finally, after two hours, I made it inside the building, around the hallways and lobby and entered the Most Holy place.  Well, not exactly.  It was the gymnasium.  It was the last room we needed to go into to vote.

It was packed.  It was stuffy and hot in here, too.  But in spite of a large amount of discomfort, no one lost their cool.  No one went completely crazy.  The complaining about the lines was done with commiseration for one another.  And some people really helped keep the mood light -- I thank God for those people and their gifting of impromptu crowd-entertaining skills.

At one point in the gym where the lines snaked back and forth for eternity, someone started the wave.  The first time, everyone seemed to jump into the game and the wave lasted the entire duration right up to the check-in table.  The whole crowd of people burst into cheers and laughter at our community spirit and our success at getting the wave right on our first try.

The next couple tries, people were less enthused and loud boo's broke out when the wave only made it round a couple bends in the line.  But there was still laughter.

Finally, we made a fourth attempt and it was once again successful.  I guess that was enough for a while, because after that it stopped.  But everyone seemed a little more jovial and chatty.  Temporary friendships were being formed throughout the line.

It really made me start feeling a little more hopeful about this world.  Here we were in a giant line and at the end of it were no iPhones, no hard-to-get concert tickets.  At the end of this line, people would get to cast their vote.  People were willing to stand in long lines just to continue the freedoms we have in this country to ... vote! or to complain or to choose to stay or to leave a long line when they'd just been there enough.   We are really blessed in this nation of ours.

The smart people among our community brought their own entertainment.  I saw people with iPods or books.  This lady crocheted an entire winter hat and gave it to someone else in line.  Another woman knitted a scarf while in line.  I wish I had thought to bring my Kindle or iPod!

Once the kids were stuck inside, I was really impressed with how great they were.  Other than a few babies crying, none of the kids had meltdowns.  They still ran around a bit -- never straying too far from their parents -- but they added to the enjoyment of the rest of us as we watched them make their own fun in this crowded space.  A lot of teens brought their homework and spent time helping with younger siblings while getting schoolwork done.

And then, Channel 7 News showed up.  They stopped at various points in the line to interview people.  I didn't get interviewed and I'm okay with that.  It was cool just to see that we were getting media attention so that maybe these lines won't be so long next time.

Finally, a second round of pizzas came around.  I grabbed a slice.  It wasn't the best pizza I've ever had, but it filled a spot in my increasingly hungry tummy.

More pictures of the lines for you so you can really appreciate the view I enjoyed all evening...

I started sitting down for a few minutes and then standing back up.  Sitting down for a few more and standing back up.  My feet and legs were killing me at this point in the line when I'd been there nearly 3-1/2 hours.  I started staying put on the floor as the line moved and just scootching along on my backside -- or when the move was a little further (a burst of movement!) I was kind of half-crabwalking.

Another lady saw me doing this and burst into laughter as if I was impromptu physical comedy, put there to entertain everyone.  It was funny.  I laughed with her.  I invited her to try it.  She didn't.

I started becoming very aware of certain things going on in the room.  I was people watching, but I was also looking for signs of the time, I guess I'll call it.  I started taking pictures of some of these with my phone -- for something to do.

This pile of garbage stuffed in the bleachers folded up to the wall makes sense when you see how the trash cans appeared.  See the next picture.

The governor was so kind to provide sustenance, but forgot to send waste management over to follow-up.

Finally, I snaked around to the last line in the room.  I'd been in line over 4-1/2 hours by this point.  So much for three to four.

What's that I see?  Are those the voting booths?!

But suddenly, the ballot box jammed.  People began to get a little bit panicky -- but chaos did not ensue.  They fixed this problem within a few minutes, so the backlog wasn't too great.

At five-and-a-quarter hours, I was in the home-stretch, just minutes away from checking in, receiving my ballot and getting to vote.  Too bad the vote was called for New Mexico more than an hour earlier.  I stayed to vote because I knew I could still impact local government as I voted for judges, senators and representatives.  Sadly, many people left when they realized the next president had been decided.

And finally...five-and-a-half hours later, I submitted my ballot.

So what was the deal with all the lines?  I talked to some Election workers on-site and they gave me some feedback about how the process has been changing and how we are in the growing pains phase of the change.  I'll write more about it in a separate blog post, but for now, here's a link to an article about the line situation in our community.

How was your voting experience this year?


  1. I walked into the entry area of the Methodist church and gave my name to the lady seated at the table. She told me to go to table 29. (There were about 3 tables inside.) There I gave my name, signed and was given a ballot. (No lines.) I went to the booth and voted. (Not electronically) The whole process took about 10 minutes. Like I said, there is something to said about living in a small community. (I didn't even have trouble finding a parking place.) I am impressed that you hung-in there.

  2. I couldn't even park on campus. I was way, way outside of the parking lot in a dark, desolate place. It was a little spooky to walk to the car at 11pm in the dark. C said he'd come down there and drive me to my vehicle, but I just made a run for it. Obviously, I'm okay. :)

    I'm glad your voting experience went more smoothly.

  3. Wow, I am very surprised so many people stuck it out. I don't think I'd even wait an hour! :P I'm such a great citizen.

  4. Look at it this way ... you would have been one to create a burst of movement when the lines adjusted to someone leaving. You would have been appreciated regardless. :)